After a trying two-and-a-half year battle for survival, the vibrantly colored Moore Street Market in East Williamsburg finally got a taste of sweet victory. Not only did the market recently secure a five-year lease and much needed capital from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, (EDC), it looks like plans to build a plaza around the market have been approved by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT).
“We are pleased to acknowledge that DOT selected your proposed idea for a plaza on Humboldt Street between Moore Street and Varet Street and will now program available funds in DOT’s Capital Program for this plaza,” wrote Assistant DOT Commissioner Andy Wiley-Schwartz in a letter dated December 29, 2008 to Community Board 1 District Manager Gerald Esposito.
Last August, Esposito submitted a proposal to DOT, penned under the Moore Market Merchant’s Association, Inc. Esposito, who used to shop at the market as a boy with his mother, said that DOT’s approval of the plaza improves the market’s odds of long-term survival, since the city is less likely to destroy something that it has invested money in.
“As someone whose mother used to take to the market by hand, I hope it stays for generations to come,” said Esposito.
On Friday afternoon local elected officials gathered at the market to listen to Salsa and Merengue, eat Latin food and celebrate the five-year lease and a capital infusion that the market has recently received. On January 29, EDC announced that its Brooklyn subsidiary will lease the market from the city for the next five years. The market also got cash infusions of $630,000 from EDC. All spoke of the historical market’s importance to the local community and the benefits of revitalizing and maintaining it.
“[The market] is reflective of the Latino culture, which is key to the Williamsburg community,” said Stephen Levin, the Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez. “With all the changes the neighborhood is going through it’s important to keep cultural integrity and employment opportunities.”
The indoor market has been an important community fixture since the 1930s, built by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia as a haven for vendors who sold their wares on pushcarts in congested streets. Today the Moore Street Market, a.k.a. La Marqueta de Williamsburg, largely caters to the Hispanic community, with restaurants, fresh produce, barber and beauty shops, tailors, florists and household supply stores. For the last few years, the rising rents and demographic changes in the gentrifying neighborhood have almost cost La Marqueta its life. The continual loss of revenue prompted the city to seriously consider shutting down the market and replace it with a more profitable enterprise. But due to the perseverance of the Moore Street Market Merchant’s Association Inc., and Esposito’s advocating efforts, which attracted the aid of prominent local elected officials, the market regained its vital signs.
Evidently, the main beneficiaries of the market’s new lease on life are the people who work and shop there. Virgilio Rodriguez, the President of the Moore Market Merchants Association, thanked the higher powers that be, and Assemblyman Lopez specifically, for saving the market.
“The market is very good for the people,” said Rodriguez. “If you have a job, you have food, you have everything, you’re happy.”
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