New Amsterdam Market: reviving New York’s public market

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For over 300 years, the South Street neighborhood served as a thriving food market where farmers and locals crossed paths to exchange a rich variety of goods. In the 1640s, Peck’s Slip hosted Peck’s Market, where George Washington purchased his food. Burling Slip served as a destination for tropical fruit. Then, for over 180 years, from 1822 to 2005, South Street was the site of the venerable Fulton Fish Market–one of the great outdoor public markets of the 19th century. It had 88 butcher stalls, a coffee seller, a tripe seller, produce stalls, and fish stalls. The Fish Mongers later moved to a separate home, in an adjacent space across the street. Over time, the market faded away, but the fish market stayed. When the Fulton Fish Market moved to Hunts Point, in the Bronx, it left its old residence at the New Market Building and Tin Building vacant.

Photo: Fulton Fish Market

In 2005, city planner Robert LaValva founded the New Amsterdam Market in the hopes of reviving the public market tradition that has endured for generations on South Street. The market began as a one-day event and has grown since then to become a regular event. LaValva noted that he drew his inspiration from London’s historic public market, Borough Market. If London had a great public market, then New York, as one of the world’s greatest cities, deserved a public market as well to draw locals and tourists alike.

New Amsterdam Market, whose name reflects New York’s Dutch heritage, has several goals in sight. On the one hand, the market brings together local butchers, bakers, sandwich makers, cheesemongers, fishmongers, farmers, foragers, and picklers in a celebration of New York’s and the region’s culinary commerce. It is a locavore’s food fantasy. Here you will find Salt Pond oysters from Rhode Island, lobster rolls from Maine, and hard-boiled eggs and pickled celery from Queen’s farm. And unlike a traditional farmers market, NAM features artisanal food that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, including nectarine-shiso sorbet and barley honey lollipops.

But NAM is more than merely a place to buy and sell food. The market also serves as an economic incubator for small businesses and as a vibrant public space, reminiscent of the Greek agorae. As LaValva said, “it’s meant to be a place to gather and talk and socialize.” The NAM is New York’s agorae and considering the historical context of the area, it is appropriate that the NAM is recreated on the site of where the public market in New York City was born.

The New York City Department of City Planning and the Economic Development Corporation have big plans for the East Side waterfront. Several projects are already underway. LaValva believes that the New Amsterdam Market can play a pivotal role in the development and revitalization happening along the East River waterfront.

New Amsterdam Market runs every Sunday from May to December. The market is currently located in the parking lot in front of the Fulton Fish Market’s New Market Building. You can find more information about the market here.