The threat of rain didn’t keep many people away from the Essex Street Market this past Saturday. The turnout was strong for a block party staged outside the historic public market, which is celebrating its 76th birthday.
Many vendors were set up in booths along Essex Street and enjoyed brisk business. Locals got to sample the savory treats at Osaka Grub, the Japanese street food purveyor preparing to open a permanent stall inside the market. Other Lower East Side businesses, such as Cafe Katja and Pies & Thighs, joined in the festivities. New Street Seats (just installed last week) were well-used on Saturday.
The developers of Essex Crossing were also in the mix. The large project will include a new home for the Essex Street Market as the gateway for the Market Line, a three-block-long retail market on Delancey Street. The developers sponsored the block party and were on hand with renderings and a big blackboard. They were inviting passersby to write down thoughts about the past, present and future of the Lower East Side (see Instagram hashtag #HowYouLES).
There was a short speaking program on Saturday, featuring local elected officials and community leaders. U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez praised the market for its resiliency and for continuing to represent “the flavor and diversity of what has made the Lower East Side a destination.”
Hinting at its struggles during the past few years, City Council member Margaret Chin said, “the market has a wonderful history and we want everyone to know that the market is open for business.” Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li added, “we have been working very, very hard to make sure vendors in this market, who really represent the culture and flavor and diversity of the Lower East Side, will have a successful transition over to the new market.”
Members of the vendor association, city officials and leaders of the Lower East Side Partnership all stressed their efforts to work collaboratively to make the market stronger. In the past, merchants have expressed frustration with the city’s management of the facility. But — as we reported recently — improvements are underway to make the market more appealing to visitors. Bottom line: everyone’s playing nice.
Also on Saturday, there was a tribute to Ron Budinas, a longtime Essex Street Market vendor who recently passed away. He was co-owner of Tra La La Juice Bar, a fixture in the market since the 1970s. We’ll have a separate story about that tomorrow.