Community Board 3 Seeks Information From City Regarding Essex Market Vendors

This week we have been following the legal back and forth between the NYC Economic Development Corp.(EDC) and a longtime vendor at the Essex Street Market.  Last night, members of Community Board 3 briefly discussed the situation and the broader issue of protections for businesses at the market.

Essex Street Market. Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

Essex Street Market. Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

Carmen Salvador, the owner of Three Brothers Clothing, filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the EDC, which operates the market.  The city decided earlier this fall not to renew her permit for a stall on the north end of the market because, according to Salvador, she has been closed too frequently in recent months.  Salvador, however, says medical issues have prevented her from keeping normal hours.

During CB3’s executive committee meeting, Chairperson Gigi Li said she had spoken with city officials about the matter.  Since the Salvador case is in litigation, EDC officials have declined to speak publicly about the details, except to say that Salvador had been given ample warnings about violations of her contract, which specifies hours of operation among other requirements.

Executive committee members agreed, however, that the board should ask EDC officials to appear before CB3’s land use committee to discuss big picture market management issues.  The city previously agreed to provide space in the new facility for all vendors who are in good standing at the time of the move, and the developers are picking up their moving expenses.  But CB3 wants to make sure there’s no effort to “weed out” vendors in advance of the move.  Some members last night cautioned that it’s a delicate matter; the community board and the EDC developed a lot of trust during the past few years, as the large development project came to fruition.  No one wants to jeopardize that spirit of cooperation.  At the same time, there’s a strong interest in assuring that the dwindling number of longtime, diverse vendors at the market have the opportunity to stay (a city spokesperson told The Lo-Down there is no connection whatsoever between the Three Brothers situation and the EDC’s long-term goals for the market).

In other news related to the market’s future, a new Essex Street Market merchant association met with the Essex Crossing design team yesterday for a “get-acquainted” session. Market Ventures, a firm that specializes in building public markets, has been hired to work on the project.  Also, the EDC has published a “Request for Qualifications (RFQ),” seeking consultants with expertise in market management. According to the RFQ, the agency “may issue future requests for advisory services to assist in strategic planning for the management and operations of the new, expanded market, among other tasks related to NYCEDC’s markets portfolio.”  The document, available on the EDC’s web site, states that respondents should have expertise in the “day-to-day operations and staffing of expanding and/or new world class public retail food markets,” as well as vendor recruitment, public programming, marketing and entrepreneurship development.

UPDATED 11/22/2013 4:24 p.m.  Regarding the lawsuit filed this week,  a city law department spokesperson said Salvador’s claims couldn’t be “addressed in detail” due to the pending litigation. “We strongly dispute Ms. Salvador’s version of events and allegations that the EDC violated the law,” the spokesperson said.