The struggling East Harlem market, La Marqueta, has been in existence since the 1930s and has been attempting to revitalize for over 25 years. Renewed interest in East Harlem has resulted in numerous unsuccessful efforts to replace the current vestiges of La Marqueta with a brand new modern facility attracting vendors and customers reminiscent of the bazaar at its peak.
“This project has seen different versions of itself and it hasn’t happened so many times. There is some disbelief,” Sally Hernandez-Pinero said. “It has taken a little longer than everyone has hoped but we’re doing it. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky plan.”
“The current planners believe that East Harlem’s increased safety, luxury housing boom and a national interest in organic food make this the most opportune time to revitalize the market in the 30 years since its decline.”
With Harlem having the necessary space, yet being conspicuously devoid of downtown favorites like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, it makes sense that La Marqueta would be a prime site for a healthy substitute to the the bodegas and supermercados in El Barrio.
Garcia and Hernandez-Pinero talk about inviting an “anchor” corporation like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market to the site, but they are afraid this would price out local vendors and dilute the market’s cultural roots.
“If Fresh Direct said they would move in, this would start tomorrow,” said Hernandez-Pinero.
“We want to give the chance to own businesses to local people in East Harlem. So we need not too big a name, not too small a name,” Garcia said. “But our trouble is you’re not going to get a guy with his tomatoes to commit two years in advance.”
Here are some interesting statistics cited in the article published by City Limits:
- This month the Business Capital Corporation said it is at least $5 million short and 18 months behind schedule.
- One supporter, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, had to at least temporarily pull his $1 million pledge out of the project.
- According to a Columbia University study, [East Harlem] experiences an 81 percent loss of potential spending dollars to other neighborhoods each year.
- The project will cost $20 million, $15 million of which they have already raised or been promised. They say this money includes $1 million from City Councilmember Melissa Mark Viverito, $4.1 million from the Upper Manhattan Redevelopment Zone and $4 million in new market tax credits. The federal Office of Community Services and the Ford Foundation have donated $540,000 and $200,000, respectively.
- East Harlem has one of the largest Latino populations in the city, according to Community Board 11’s annual report, just 3 percent of businesses are Latino-owned.
- Under the current plan, La Marqueta — renamed Marqueta Internacional — will include three glass-enclosed, environmentally “green” buildings that include 55,000 square feet of space. The largest, center building, will stretch across three blocks from 112th to 115th Street and will house a market featuring fresh produce, meat, fish and prepared foods from the Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican, African-American, Italian and other ethnic groups in East Harlem. Two block-long buildings on either side of the market will contain a mix of restaurants and cultural and health programming space. If this phase is successful, the group plans to expand up to 119th Street to provide 30,000 square feet more of space.
Source: City Limits