The Essex Street Market Hopes This ‘Street Seat’ Will Help Spur Foot Traffic

Posted on: March 18th, 2015 at 5:00 am by
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In less than two months, the Essex Street Market will celebrate its 75th anniversary on the Lower East Side. What a milestone for a simple brick warehouse that was initially intended to move the pushcarts indoors.

However, the forthcoming commemorations are currently overshadowed by the eventual move across Delancey to site 2 of the Essex Crossing. As previously reported, vendors are struggling due to a misconception that the facility is already closed. There is a lack of foot traffic, and owner-operator EDC is allegedly not doing its part to increase visibility.

Enter the Lower East Side BID. The community organization is pitching in to help sunset this perception. Not only will the organization help with the marketing efforts, it’s behind the new proposal to install a seasonal “Street Seat” outside the Essex Market. The hope is that by adding a public amenity to the exterior, the inherent “visual cues” will indicate that the market is open for business. At least for the next three years while the 24-story replacement is constructed.

Last night, Executive Director Tim Laughlin revealed the installation plans in greater detail to the Transportation subcommittee of Community Board 3. Here are the nuts and bolts…

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Example of a Street Seat in the wild

The Street Seat is a makeshift seating area – with plantings and possible adjacent mural – that is seasonal in nature. During the warmer months, the imported wooden infrastructure will occupy a 70-foot length (7-foot width) of pavement outside the northernmost entrance of the Essex Market. At the expense of four parking spaces (really two since the others are no parking zoned). The BID’s design for the new pedestrian-friendly project reportedly incorporates the pushcart past into the design. Upon its debut on May 1 – to coincide with the aforementioned 75th anniversary – the public will have access, perhaps spurring more business to the market itself.

It’ll be here through November.

The Department of Transportation does maintain rules for Street Seats, though. Most importantly, patrons are not permitted to smoke or drink within these sidewalk extensions.

The CB3 panel voiced some concerns, including the propensity for skateboarders to discover the obstacle and nighttime loitering (i.e. sitting after hours). Apparently incorporated design elements are meant to deter both. There was additional uneasiness about how this stretch of roadway is one of the most dangerous in all of the city, highly trafficked by pedestrians, city buses (M9, M14), and tons of motorists.

Ultimately, CB3 agreed that the plan was certainly worth trying, and signaled unanimous approval.

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