A Festive Block Party and a Spring Makeover at the Essex Street Market

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There’s a big bash at the Essex Street Market this weekend in celebration of the historic public facility’s 76th birthday. On Saturday, May 21, vendors will be outside for a block party, complete with all sorts of food and entertainment (more on that in a moment).

But first, we wanted to tell you about some improvements now underway inside and outside the market building.

You may have noticed five new murals brightening up the interior space. They’re the work of Brooklyn-based artist Gera Lozano, who was recruited to create the colorful pieces by the Lower East Side Partnership. In the weeks ahead, she’ll also be installing a temporary exhibition spanning the outside of the Essex Street Market building.

The murals are part of a larger plan by the Partnership (formerly the Lower East Side BID), the Vendor Association and the city to spruce up the market, boost foot traffic and reinvigorate the facility. In a couple of years, of course, the merchants will be moving across the street to a new space in the Essex Crossing complex. They’re trying to counter a mistaken impression that the current facility has already closed in anticipation of the move.

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Yesterday, we spoke with LES Partnership President Tim Laughlin about the upcoming changes. Some of the improvements will be in place for next weekend’s block party. Others will reveal themselves during the summer.

Next week, outdoor seating (under the auspices of the city’s Street Seats Program) will be installed on Essex Street. Interior corridors are being redesigned with new counters and fresh paint. On the building’s north end, there’s a plan to create new seating and to add a display highlighting the Essex Street Market’s rich history. There will also be a revamped visitor center.

The enhancements are being made possible through funding from the NYC Economic Development Corp., Avenue NYC (a program of the city’s Department of Small Business Services) and the LES Partnership. There’s $86,000 budgeted for renovations, marketing and special events this year. “The idea,” said Laughlin is to create a strong foundation for a year of programming and promotions” at the market.

Now more about next Saturday’s block party. You’ll see many of your favorite vendors, but also new arrivals such as Osaka Grub (they’re expecting to open an ESM stall very soon). Plus other Lower East Side food purveyors will be joining in, including : Pies ‘n’ ThighsGrey Lady, Cafe Katja, The Fat Radish/The Leadbelly and Ice & Vice. And Turnstile Tours will be offering free market tours on the half hour. The block party takes place from noon-5 p.m. on Essex Street, just above Delancey Street. It’s free, but organizers are hoping you will RSVP.

The event is being sponsored by the Market Line, the three-block-long public market that’s being built as part of Essex Crossing. The new Essex Street Market will be the anchor of that large retail project.