CB3 Overwhelmingly Supports Essex Market Vendors in Their Fight for Survival

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 at 5:00 am by

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Anne Saxelby discusses Essex Market woes with CB3

It’s only fitting that the fight to reinvigorate the Essex Street Market should transpire merely a block from the demolition of the very market building that will eventually deliver its replacement facility. It’ll move into the 24-story tower in approximately three years (Site 2 of Essex Crossing).

Nevertheless, the conversation is about the current state of the Essex Market, and an overall lack of awareness of its significance to the community. Last night presented an opportunity for the Essex Street Market Vendors Association to air their grievances before Community Board 3, and interface directly with the EDC overlords that have come up short in properly managing the space.

Local cheesemonger Anne Saxelby, on behalf of the ESMVA, summarized the “anemic” situation plaguing the 75-year-old city institution. Namely, that there’s increased competition from corporate grocers nearby like Whole Foods and Union Market which stay open later; that the Essex Crossing announcements weave a narrative that the Market is closed for business; that the EDC has a lack of vision and strategy (e.g. Ineffective signage, Twitter account has been inactive since 2009) in the short term to help struggling vendors who might not even survive the day Site 1 debut. All of which spells declining foot traffic.

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Vendors ultimately demand a two-pronged approach and presented as such: (i) Seek short-term solutions to the foot traffic problem while (ii) simultaneously working to find new management for the forthcoming facility, which is a drawn-out process that requires an RFP. The EDC, sluggish as it is, did commission a consultant (Market Ventures, Inc.) to aid in the hunt for a not-for-profit third party that can “allow for “increased responsiveness to vendor and customer needs, are able to generate creative approaches to operational challenges, and form robust partnerships.”

Community Board 3 was strong in its support of needing immediate change, too. Members volleyed a barrage of questions toward EVP Ben Branham and AVP Community Relations Lusheena Warner for the better part of an hour. The pair was certainly on a defensive footing as one public speaker noted. Issues raised included the lack of outreach (in any sense of the word), marketing the Market to the wrong demographic (transients vs. locals), and the importance of sustaining affordable rents to help keep the shopping destination a budget-friendly option for the neighborhood.

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Where Heritage Meat and Brooklyn Taco once held court

The DCA indicated its openness to work toward implementing new management in the longer term, but plans to take the following interim steps…

  • Hire a full-time employee – paid for by the city agency – to work with the ESMVA.
  • Outsource its promotion and marketing responsibilities to the Lower East Side BID.
  • Work with the Vendors Association to organize events surrounding the 75th anniversary of the Essex Market later this year. This will generate additional awareness of its neighborhood presence.

In the end, the Land Use subcommittee of Community Board 3 overwhelmingly approved the measure to support the bid for new management and attention to the current concerns of vendors. The resolution is reprinted below.

CB3 Resolution to Support Essex Market Vendors

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