This coming Sunday, November 23, is the last weekend to attend Vendy Plaza, at least for now. For the past four Sundays, our friends at the Street Vendor Project and the Vendy Awards have turned East Harlem’s historic La Marqueta public market into a gathering place for outdoor food vendors, music, and culture.
La Marqueta was originally called the Park Avenue Retail Market when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia opened it in 1936 as a place for street vendors to operate in East Harlem, part of his campaign to get vendors off the streets and into indoor markets. While more than a dozen of these public markets were built in the 1930’s and 40’s, today only four are still operating and are owned by the City of New York: La Marqueta, the Lower East Side’s Essex Street Market (which will likely be relocated as part of the Essex Crossing development), the Arthur Avenue Market in the Bronx, and the Moore Street Market in Williamsburg (which you can visit on our Immigrant Foodways Tour on select Saturdays).
Once a major Italian enclave, in the post-World War II period, many Spanish-speaking residents from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic moved into East Harlem, and the market thrived as a place to purchase traditional ingredients, music, and other products from around Latin America and the Caribbean. In the 1950’s and 60’s, there were estimated to be over 500 vendors operating in La Marqueta.
In more recent years, the market has struggled. Encompassing both an indoor market as well as outdoor areas that stretch for several blocks beneath the MetroNorth railway viaduct, much of this outdoor area has gone mostly unused. Luckily, with the support of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Street Vendor Project has decided to bring activity and celebration to this public space.
Check out our visit to the Vendy Plaza last week:
This Sunday, expect to find many previous Vendy Award-winning and -nominated vendors serving their food, along with drinks, Brooklyn Brewery beer (happy hour 4-5pm!), and live music. If you missed this year’s Vendys, you can try the offerings from Best of Market winner Zhà Pan Asian Streetfood , Best Dessert winner Ice & Vice, and Vendy Cup champ Nuchas. We’ll also be joined by DeliNDogz Pastrami, Khao Man Gai, Frittering Away, Mighty Meaty, Walking Dog BBQ, and Hott Carl’s Pizza. This is the first time the Vendy Awards has hosted anything like this outside from their usual annual celebration of street food, and they hope this can become an ongoing event, staring up again next spring.
The market is located at 116th Street and Park Avenue, just steps away from the 6 train. Vendors will be serving from 12pm to 6pm. To get more information, visit their website.
Turnstile Tours offers weekly tours of food carts and trucks year-round, every Wednesday at 12pm in Manhattan’s Financial District, and every Friday at 2pm in Midtown. These tours include six tastings from different vendors, and visitors learn about the history of vending in New York City, the rules and regulations affecting vendors, and they even have the opportunity to meet the vendors themselves and ask about what it takes to run one of these small businesses. At least 5% of all of our ticket sales goes to support the Street Vendor Project.