Two sides of the Greenport farmers market story

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Greenport Farmers Market organizer Lara McNeil serves soup on Oct. 15, when the market closed for the season. Some village merchants want the market to relocate.

A battle of petitions is being waged in Greenport between supporters of the farmers market and some local merchants upset about what they say is market-related traffic and parking problems and unfair competition.

The farmers market that operated Saturday mornings from Memorial Day to mid-October drew only one open complaint at a recent Village Board meeting. Arlene Jaquillard, who owns the Greenport Laundromat, said her business decreased 50 percent during the market’s hours because customers can’t carry heavy laundry a long distance. The market was set up in the Adams Street parking lot immediately adjacent to the laundromat.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she heard complaints from village Business Improvement District members and other merchants that the market’s vendors were cutting into their business because, paying no rent or property taxes, they have far less overhead than store operators.

She said a petition is being circulated to try to force the farmers market to relocate next season.

On the final few of weeks of the market’s operation, Mayor David Nyce said that if organizers make a bid to return to the site next year, public hearings will be held to enable merchants and residents to weigh in with any problems they experienced.

At the same time, market organizers started their own petition to highlight the number of people who support its continued operation in downtown Greenport.

Neither side has indicated how many people have signed either petition. Farmers market organizer Lara McNeil said she wants to return to the Adams Street site next spring and stressed the importance of having a permanent home in what she called “the pedestrian village.”

She pronounced this year’s experience successful and said the only change she’d like to make is to open the market at 9 a.m. instead of 8, since few people tended to show up during that first hour.

Responding to suggestions that the market move to Greenport School grounds, Ms. McNeil said that would place it outside the walking central village. One of the tenets of a successful farmers market is to be in a high traffic area, she said.

Ms. McNeil said she’s unaware of any complaints, adding that many local chefs shopped the market regularly. She also said she saw area merchants at the market on a regular basis, but declined to name them.

And she denied that any of her vendors were taking up parking space in the Adams Street lot. They all signed agreements stipulating that they park elsewhere, she said.

The market averaged about 14 vendors per week and eight different vineyards rotated selling their wines, Ms. McNeil said.

Ms. Phillips said she wants to hold a public hearing to enable merchants to air their views, but the mayor said he’s not inclined to do that unless the market’s organizers apply to use the Adams Street space again.

“Let’s let the dueling petitions work out,” Mr. Nyce said during the Village Board’s Oct. 17 work session.

Although some local residents complained that some prices at the farmers market were too high for their budgets, Ms. McNeil said every week she saw three to five people using Food Stamp (EBT) cards, WIC checks and similar forms of payment.

Once she meets with her vendors toward the end of November, she expects to file a request with the village to return to the site again next spring.

“I hope that we get the Village Board’s support,” Ms. McNeil said.

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