Full LES Board Backs Change at Essex Street Market; No Decisions From the City Yet

Essex Street Market.

Essex Street Market.
Essex Street Market.

We have been keeping a close eye on the Essex Street Market, where the vendor association is pushing for alternative management. The historic facility, run by the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC), has experienced a drop in foot traffic and several businesses have closed. Last night, Community Board 3 voted unanimously in favor of a proposal to hand over day-to-day management to an “Essex Street Market Preservation and Development Corp.” a new not-for-profit entity.

Even before the vote, conversations were taking place with city officials about making a change. The topic was discussed at a recent meeting of the community task force set up to advise the developers of the Essex Crossing residential and retail project. A new home is being built for the Essex Street Market as part of Essex Crossing, although the city will continue to oversee operations.

The CB3 resolution calls on the city to implement a new management structure no later than June of next year. It requests a “detailed and finalized road map” to be presented this coming January. If anyone expected the EDC would say, “Ok, we’re prepared to do that,” they’d be disappointed. Here’s the statement we received from a city spokesperson this afternoon:

NYCEDC stands alongside the Community Board, Vendors, and Lower East Side community in our shared desire to ensure that Essex Street Market remains a vibrant, viable and equitable environment where local vendors can thrive and grow. We have been working diligently with our community partners, local elected officials and the Vendors Association as we discuss the potential framework of a more dedicated management structure, and discussions about how best and when to implement any changes will be determined by both the short and long term needs of the market.

As the statement noted, local elected officials are involved in the conversations. At this point, they’re all choosing their words very carefully. City Council member Margaret Chin said today, “We support the market’s efforts to establish an alternative management structure for the Essex Street site, and we will continue to work with EDC to ensure the vendors’ concerns are heard.” Two weeks ago, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer told The Lo-Down, “It’s clear that (the market) requires the kind of individualized, hands-on attention that an external nonprofit will be better-equipped to provide than EDC… I think the best way to build on (the city’s efforts to make the market successful)… is to transition its management to a partner organization that can address its unique needs.”

There is some positive news to report. Two agreements — allowing the vendors to hire a part-time staff person and to outsource marketing to the LES Business Improvement District — have finally been approved after months of back-and-forth.