Public markets are one of the foundational institutions of urban life. The Project for Public Spaces defines public markets as indoor or outdoor markets that “operate in public space, serve locally owned and operated businesses, and have public goals.” They not only a place of commerce, or a tourist attraction, but a place for convening and community building that cuts across social, cultural, and economic strata. In many American cities, such spaces can be hard to find, which is why we cherish the truly great public markets that have survived. In this virtual program, we will survey some of our favorite public markets that we’ve had the chance to visit, what makes them great, and what are their “public goals,” from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Philadelphia to Flint, and even here in New York City.
April 6 marks the 104th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I, but the impacts of this global conflict were already being felt in New York City. Starting in 1914, panicked markets, inefficient infrastructure, and marauding U-boats caused price shocks and shortages, and the war led directly to the creation of new modes of food distribution, leading to the creation of New York City’s wholesale and retail public market system that still exists today. In this program, we will examine reports from the time period by the city and state Departments and Markets about how new open-air markets were stood up, pushcart peddlers were mobilized to bring food to neighborhoods, and the public was educated to conserve scarce or strategically valuable ingredients.
Urban Garden Center has been a fixture of Spanish Harlem since the 1950’s, and today their beautiful shop occupies a massive two-block stretch along Park Avenue in the historic La Marqueta. We interviewed third-generation owner Dimitri Gatanas earlier this year to discuss spring plants, and now we’re back to discuss the plants that make the holiday season special. We’ll take a virtual tour of their seasonally-decorated space, learn about Christmas trees and other holiday plants (plus share tips on maintaining them), and discuss how this holiday season will be different from any other.
Hunts Point in the Bronx is the world’s largest food distribution center, yet few New Yorkers have ever visited. In order to demystify this place and the city’s food system, designers Lilian Yi-Hsuan Lin, Ángel Lamar Oliveras, and Beverly Chou created Race to Hunts Point, a strategy board game designed for high school students in which players must use resources to successfully operate cultivation, shipping, and trading processes in the food supply chain. In this virtual program, Lilian will walk us through the design, fabrication, and gameplay of Race to Hunts Point, which was created through the FWRD Fellowship for designers and engineers with NYCEDC’s Futureworks.
In celebration of Lower East Side History Month, join us for a conversation with Theresa Loong, Laura Nova, and Sarah Kramer about Feed Me A Story’s video and audio documentation of Essex Market that explores what it means to be an American through questions like, “What is your favorite childhood food?” or “What was the first recipe you learned to cook?” We’ll be listening together to clips from their recently launched audio walk of the market, watching videos that feature stories and family recipes from vendors and customers alike, and inviting viewers to share the ingredients and dishes that spark their own stories and memories of family and community.
Learn the history of Brooklyn’s Moore Street Market and join a live broadcast with market manager Egaudy Gomez, who will take us on a virtual tour of the market to meet the vendors, hear their stories, and learn about what they are making and selling during this time of crisis, including businesses that are collaborating to make Puerto Rican- and Dominican-themed protective masks. Built in 1941 as part of a city-wide network of public retail markets, today “La Marqueta de Williamsburg” is a neighborhood institution, known by local residents for family-owned businesses selling herbal teas, beverages, gift items, and traditional ingredients like tubers and plantains, as well as prepared food vendors with lunch counters that serve up flavorful Latin dishes.
When Essex Street Market opened in 1940, it was heralded as a new era for commerce, as the city promised to clear the streets of pushcart peddlers and provide a clean, orderly space for shoppers. Many former street vendors set up shop in the new market’s 475 stalls, but New Yorkers lamented the loss of the pushcarts that had filled the streets of the Lower East Side for nearly a century. Together with the Tenement Museum, we’ll explore the evolution of the market itself and the stories of the vendors who made it their home. The history of the Essex Street Market and its businesses have always been a reflection of the immigration and migration to the Lower East Side and during this virtual visit, we’ll meet vendors of the past, and drop-in live to the new Essex Market to talk with its vendors of today.
During the pandemic, supermarkets are the few public places that people still frequent, so this is a perfect time to look back at the history of grocery stores in America and New York City. From Piggly Wiggly to Whole Foods to Korean grocers, this virtual program will look at important moments in the evolution of food markets over the past century, including the creation of modern consumer food packaging, the rise and fall of grocery chains, and the impact of suburbanization. We will also look at how retailers have adapted to the unique challenges of operating in New York City, and how we are all adapting to shopping in a world with COVID-19. This program is presented with support from Brooklyn Historical Society.
On May 13, 2019, Essex Market moved from its 1940 building to a new home at Essex Crossing, opening a new chapter in the market’s history by adding 13 new vendors, a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, robust public seating, and tripling the market’s footprint. Despite the change in venue, Essex Market remains dedicated to its mission to serve the Lower East Side with fresh, affordable and high-quality food. On this virtual tour of the market, we will look back at the last year, which began with a flurry of excitement, but we enter Year Two with a completely different sense of “business as usual.” Learn about the historic move and get a first-hand look at how market vendors are adapting to the new state of affairs and keeping their businesses going. We’ll go live to the market with Community Manager Lauren Margolis, who will introduce us to some of the vendors and share the measures put in place so everyone can continue shopping safely.
Explore the history of Graham Avenue, Brooklyn’s “Avenue of Puerto Rico” and take an in-depth look at the businesses and people of this community, including the historic Moore Street Market, and the department stores, butcher shops, and pushcarts of the past and present. Turnstile Tours has worked in the neighborhood for more than 10 years, and this program is based on more than 20 oral history interviews with neighborhood residents and local business owners and on original archival research that we will share during this session.