A little more than a year from now, in the summer of 2018, a newly expanded Essex Street Market is expected to open at 115 Delancey St. It is part of the big Essex Crossing project now under construction. Earlier this week it was announced that an issue looming over the new facility, the relationship between the Vendor Association and the city, has finally been resolved.
At Tuesday evening’s meeting of Community Board 3, Gigi Li, who chairs the Essex Crossing Task Force, said a preliminary agreement is now in place for operations at the new market. The tentative deal is the result of more than three years of talks involving the Economic Development Corp. (EDC), which oversees the market, the Vendor Association and the Lower East Side Partnership, which coordinates marketing efforts on behalf of the vendors.
In a report to CB3 members, Li said, “I believe that all of the asks (requests) that we had as guidelines… in the project were met.” She added that the “agreement will be further fleshed out to include staff and structure, funding, allocations, as well as all roles and responsibilities (of each partner).” The details of the agreement will not be revealed until July, when the city presents the plan at a meeting of CB3’s economic development committee.
During the past few years, Anne Saxelby head of the Vendor Association, has been a vocal critic of the way the city runs the market. Several merchants were forced to close their stalls due to dwindling foot traffic. The vendors complained of lackluster marketing to help boost business. Then the EDC brought the Partnership in to help with marketing and provided funding to the Vendor Association for a part-time coordinator. In briefing CB3 last summer, Saxelby was a lot more optimistic, saying improvements (such as bright new interior and exterior murals and a series of public events) had make a big difference. At the same time, she continued to call on the city to hand over operations of the new market to an outside not-for-profit organization.
While all parties have declined to discuss the terms of the agreement, a spokesperson for the EDC signaled yesterday that the city would continue to oversee the Essex Street Market, while the LES Partnership and the Vendor Association would take on larger roles.
LES Partnership President Tim Laughlin said in a statement, “We look forward to continuing a close partnership with NYCEDC, market vendors and other community stakeholders to ensure the new market facility remains accessible and provides and array of community benefits. We are finalizing the extension of agreements that expand the coordinated role that the Partnership and Essex Street Market Vendor Association have played in supporting the market and it’s diverse collection of vendors.”
In the past year, the EDC created a new position, Vice President-Executive Director of Markets, to oversee all of the city’s public market facilities. In September, David Hughes, the longtime manager of the Union Square Greenmarket, was hired in that role. His involvement means EDC is better equipped to deal with the intricacies of operating the historic Lower East Side facility at a time of unprecedented change.
The new Essex Street Market will be part of the larger Market Line, a 150,000 square foot retail pavilion at Essex Crossing. The Market Line will be run by Delancey Street Associates, the developers building the mixed-use project. Meanwhile, the Essex Street Market will be city-operated.
In keeping with an agreement struck with the city years ago, all of the vendors in the current market will move across the street to the new facility. They’ll pay the same rent at Essex Crossing that they’re paying at the time the move takes place. There are currently 25 merchants (with two new vendors opening soon). The 14,000 square foot facility will double in size when the new market debuts next year.