New York City’s Public Markets, Past and Present

This weekend marks the end of an era, as the Essex Street Market will be moving from the building it has occupied since 1940 into a new facility across Delancey St in the Essex Crossing development. The new Essex Market will have nearly all the same vendors as the old market, plus 15 additions, in a larger space that will be more convenient for shoppers and vendors.

The old market building had its own charms, and it represented an important period in New York City’s history, when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia fought to keep food affordable for New Yorkers and to provide indoor space for the city’s growing population of street vendors in the midst of the Great Depression. As we say goodbye to the old market, we are looking back at the history of the city’s public markets, and what happened to the rest of them. >> Continue reading

Fishmongers of the Essex Street Market

Whether you’re looking for salmon, tilapia, porgy, or mussels, fishmongers at the Essex Street Market have got you covered. Step inside the market today and you find two stalls selling fish, Rainbo Fish and New Star Fish Market, both of which are family-owned and operated with roots in the market going back decades.

And like most fish sellers – whether they are retailers, restaurants, or supermarkets – these market vendors get most of their product from a single source, the Fulton Fish Market. Being a seaport city, fish has always been an important part of New York’s economy and culture. Opened in 1817, the Fulton Fish Market was a sprawling complex hosting fishermen, wholesalers, and buyers in Lower Manhattan. The market became a major target of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s efforts to reform and modernize the city’s food distribution system. In 1935, the mayor wrested control of the market from the Department of Docks and placed it instead in the hands of the Department of Public Markets, to work in concert with the city’s growing network of retail and terminal markets, and in 1939, the New Market Building opened at the end of Fulton Street.>> Continue reading

Mayor LaGuardia and the War on Sidewalk Christmas Tree Sellers

It’s that time of year again – we’ve had our first snow in New York City, Christmas music is playing in every shop and store, and Christmas tree stands line the sidewalks.

While most Americans buy their Christmas trees from places like hardware stores, garden centers, churches, or Wal-Mart, New Yorkers rely on a somewhat unique economy of sellers that occupy public sidewalks all over the city for one month a year. So, how did we arrive at this arrangement, and why does it persist when so much of our city’s sidewalk economy has been stamped out?>> Continue reading