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.”