A Case for an Indoor Public Market in New York City | Civil Eats

A Case for an Indoor Public Market in New York City


New Amsterdam Market is a non-profit organization dedicated to reinventing the indoor public market as a civic institution, in the City of New York. To date, we have held three seasonal market events that have drawn thousands of supporters from all five boroughs and beyond. Beginning this summer, we will hold monthly markets at a public site, whereby the aim is to increase the visibility of and demand for regional food, thus making the case to the city and the public alike for a permanent site.

To kick-off this effort, we are holding our very first fundraiser in Manhattan this Saturday, February 21, from 5-8PM, Founded on Oyster Shells. Come for a night of oysters, cask conditioned local beers, chowders and stews, spent grain bread, and winter vegetable pickles. Or, if you would like to show your support but are outside the immediate NYC area, check out our online auction with dozens of unique experiential items to choose from. The auction runs through Tuesday, February 24th.

New Amsterdam Market will be a market of purveyors – independent, locally owned businesses such as butchers, grocers, mongers, provisioners, and other vendors who will commit to sourcing and selling food from the region extending in a radius of approximately 500 miles from the City of New York. This type of public market is nothing new. All American cities once had public markets filled with just such vendors; and these vendors were primarily concerned with selling food produced by farms they knew in person. These markets were considered civic institutions because they were held on common ground, and fulfilled a public agenda: providing urban populations with a reliable, affordable, and healthy source of food while supporting regional economies.

New Amsterdam Market is one of many projects taking place right now to revive regional food systems and provide alternatives to the type of agriculture and food production we know we would all be better off without. The challenge is very real: how do we produce and distribute food without damaging the environment, compromising biodiversity, mistreating workers and animals, or compromising public health – all hallmarks of our present food system?

We believe that meaningful change results when individual, incremental efforts are combined under one roof. What results is a new entity whose sum is larger than its many parts. In New York, we have identified a number of passionate, committed individuals who have started businesses to support local farms, especially those at the forefront of sustainable production. For example, Anne Saxelby, who has built a business supporting cheese producers from the northeast – primarily from farms too busy or distant to participate in New York’s excellent Greenmarket system. These cheesemakers have come to view Anne as their trusted representative; and the same can now be said of several Regional meat producers whose products are being sourced by another business much like Anne’s – Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, owned by Jacob Dickson, or a store like Marlow and Daughters, a new butcher shop in Williamsburg Brooklyn that sells only responsibly raised meat. Or like Sweet Deliverance – a catering company owned by Kelly Geary, who sources from farmers markets and makes home-cooked meals for professionals who don’t have time to cook themselves.

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New Amsterdam Market will be populated by vendors like this, including many who don’t exist yet but who will emerge when they find the haven to incubate their businesses. This type of economic development, which benefits both the urban and rural economy, has long been promoted by cities through the institution of the public market. Furthermore, as a gathering of individuals committed to pursuing a common goal and representing only what they believe is real, the public market becomes a venue that restores the public trust – another function of a civic institution. This is the goal of New Amsterdam Market.

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Robert LaValva is the director of New Amsterdam Market. He trained as an architect and worked as a planner for the City of New York before embarking upon this project. He is a defender of public space and believes the public market will resurge as an important civic institution, provided it is understood as such. Cerise Mayo is the Program Director for the New Amsterdam Market, whose mission is to reinvent the indoor public market as a civic institution in the City of New York. She recently served as the Creating Leaders, Creating Change Program Manager at Slow Food Nation, as well as the Director of Special Projects for Slow Food USA from 2002-2007. She is currently starting (a yet to be named) urban kitchen garden design business, helping people grow their own food, no matter how small the plot of land. Read more >

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  1. merri ann milwe
    Where will the market be?
  2. Hello Merri, thanks for your question.

    We don't yet have a permanent site for the market, but we are in conversation with New York City officials about a temporary site for a monthly market. Once we know more we'll let everyone know.


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