Greenport Village: Where to put a farmers market?

04/11/2011 5:24 PM |

Most Village Board members indicated Friday night they favor seeing a farmers market in Greenport, but all made clear they didn’t want it held in the skating rink area of Mitchell Park.

At a special meeting in the Third Street firehouse Friday night, board members asked farmers market proponent Lara McNeil to submit alternative sites, which could include the western edge of the park’s boardwalk area, near North Ferry’s Greenport terminal. The special meeting, which drew a standing room only crowd, was called by Mayor David Nyce to accommodate the scores of people who favor a farmers market.

Location issues and complaints from local merchants of unfair competition have been the major stumbling blocks to Ms. McNeil’s gaining approval for the farmers market, which she proposes to operate from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays from May 28 to Oct. 15. It would bring together at an outdoor venue a range of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, cheese, honey, organic poultry and eggs, oysters, wine and other edibles and potables, according to the market’s website.

Among alternative sites suggested were Greenport School, the Polo Grounds on Moore’s Lane, property near the Long Island Rail Road stop and the American Legion Post. Ms. McNeil and her team were reluctant to publicly favor any of them, but ultimately agreed to submit suggestions to the Village Board prior to the April 18 work session. Board members indicated they would render a decision by April 25.

On Monday morning, Arcade owner Bob Paquette said he had been contacted by one of the farmers market principals and asked if he would consider renting space in the empty store for the market’s vendors. He said he would.

Board members agreed Friday night to review the list of vendors on the market’s website, greenportfarmersmarket.com, to determine whether any of them pose unfair competition to village merchants who pay high rents, taxes, insurance and other costs to support their stores. The Village Board doesn’t want to be in the position of appearing to favor farmers market vendors over local merchants, Mayor David Nyce said.

Most who spoke at Friday night’s meeting supported the farmers market concept. But Business Improvement District president Mike Acebo said many of his members objected to the competition they believed the vendors would pose.

Southold Fish Market operator Charlie Manwaring said it would be “a direct hit to me” if fish were sold at the market. And Dan Latham, who operates a farm stand across from the IGA on First Street, wondered whether vendors would be operating a farmers market or something more like a flea market.

“The streets are packed on the weekends” without the need for something more to lure visitors, Mr. Acebo said.

Similarly, Leueen Miller of the Greenport Business Association favors the concept, but said the park is the wrong venue. It would pose traffic problems, with vendors unloading wares in the morning and taking them out at noon, she said. Parking is already an issue and she speculated that vendors would take up Front Street spaces early in the morning, making them unavailable to shoppers.

“It’s almost giving away the park for free,” Ms. Miller said, noting that vendors would pay only small fees for their booths and might well be selling products for less than local merchants must charge for the same product because of overhead.

Others, including representatives of Slow Food East End, expressed strong support for the market. Several potential vendors said it would be an economic boon to the village and suggested that local merchants might want to consider having a table at the farmers market to focus attention on their goods.

Glory tour boat captain David Berson suggested that the board charge high fees to rent out the park and use the money to maintain the site.

“It is, after all, our jewel; why give it away?” he asked.

Sculptor Arden Scott, who was involved in early planning efforts for the park, drew a laugh when she talked about how difficult it is to get Greenporters to agree on anything, But she emphasized that the entire planning committee agreed there should be no commercial use of Mitchell Park.

Greenporter Pat Mundus, executive director of the Shelter Island Historical Society, which provides a home for a farmers market on its grounds, told the board such an operation would give Greenport “a sense of place.” A farmers market, she said, “will give more green back to Greenport.”

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Comments

comments

9 Comment

  • Julie: Once again an excellent piece of reportage. We are so lucky to have you following our every move. Cap’n Berson

  • Seems to me that the extra pedestrian traffic drawn to a farmer’s market would benefit everyone.

  • I’m a little put off by the “fundraising” effort that seems to surround this group. Fund raising for what? These are commercial enterprises – some small, some substantial – and I just got an email about a “cocktail party fundraiser”…

    For crying out loud, this is a farmer’s market or am I missing something other than it being run by someone who is apparently writing a master’s thesis in real time.

  • The Farmers Market should be put in Riverhead

  • I would love to see the market become a thriving experience like the Green markets in NYC – they add to the commerce – never distract. It can become a great reflection of all we have to offer on the North Fork. I look forward to shopping LOCAL!

  • To address a prior commenter’s suggestion, there is a Farmer’s Market in Riverhead (about 23 miles from Greenport by-the-way). Seems the western edge of the boardwalk in the parking lot by the ferry would be a ridiculous site choice. Too much traffic…especially in summer from ferry, fisherman etc. People wait for ferry passengers at the lot closest to ferry and the other lot is often full. Where would the vendor’s set-up? ….no space. Use Moore’s Lane, it would be the perfect spot. Save the park space for all the people (and children) who would like to use and enjoy it, without commercial intrusion!

  • This is a tough subject where to put a farmers market, I’ve learned it’s not a permitted use in Mitchell Park and I’m not so sure where it could be in a Village that’s already strapped for parking. If this does happen let’s make sure it’s planned out properly and not just put anyplace. Any foot traffic would be a plus but I’m not sure how much more vehicle traffic this tiny village can handle.

  • The question of commercial uses of Mitchell Park was resolved in 1997 when the park was designed. Hundreds of people were involved in the process. The public stated clearly then and the village board endorsed that the park be reserved for families and children. The idea was to create a public space that would meet the recreational needs of the community while attracting commerce to the business district. People recognized at the time that it would be impossible to say yes to one proposal and no to others without discriminating. Should anyone doubt this account, read old issues of the Suffolk Times.

    The organizers are missing a chance to secure a much better site for the market, an idea that is basically good. This site would be the north side of the Adams Street parking lot adjacent to Latham’s Farmstand and across First Street from the IGA. In this location, vehicular access for vendors and customers would be optimal and the market could serve to create a “cluster” of food vendors at the heart of the business district that would embrace and enhance adjacent village merchants. Placed this way, the market could become the central downtown feature on Saturday mornings. There will be grumbling about temporarily displaced parking spaces, but no solution will come without some negative impacts. Rather than turn Mitchell Park into a commercial event venue at enormous cost to the general public, why not convert an ugly asphalt parking lot into a weekly asset for the village?

  • The question of commercial uses of Mitchell Park was resolved in 1997 when the park was designed. Hundreds of people were involved in the process. The public stated clearly then and the village board endorsed that the park be reserved for families and children. The idea was to create a public space that would meet the recreational needs of the community while attracting commerce to the business district. People recognized at the time that it would be impossible to say yes to one proposal and no to others without discriminating. Should anyone doubt this account, read old issues of the Suffolk Times.

    The organizers are missing a chance to secure a much better site for the market, an idea that is basically good. This site would be the north side of the Adams Street parking lot adjacent to Latham’s Farmstand and across First Street from the IGA. In this location, vehicular access for vendors and customers would be optimal and the market could serve to create a “cluster” of food vendors at the heart of the business district that would embrace and enhance adjacent village merchants. Placed this way, the market could become the central downtown feature on Saturday mornings. There will be grumbling about temporarily displaced parking spaces, but no solution will come without some negative impacts. Rather than turn Mitchell Park into a commercial event venue at enormous cost to the general public, why not convert an ugly asphalt parking lot into a weekly asset for the village?