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East Harlem opens Vendy Plaza, a food truck gathering place

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito visits

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito visits Vendy Plaza: an initiative that brings Vendy finalists, winners, and local vendors to East Harlem's open-air market space, La Marqueta. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

East Harlem's newest culinary hot spot isn't a restaurant or supermarket -- it's a vending truck meeting place.

The city opened Vendy Plaza Sunday at the La Marqueta open space under the Metro North elevated tracks at 115th Street and Park Avenue.

Dozens of visitors came to enjoy treats from New York's top food trucks.

The plaza will be open Sundays from now until Nov. 23 and offer the community a chance to try out some of the menus of the vendors who won top prizes at the annual Vendy Awards, such as Waffles and Dinges and Zha Pan Asian.

"Food brings everyone together like nothing else," said Sean Basinski, the director of the Street Vendor Project, which runs the Vendys.

Basinski teamed up with the city's Economic Development Corporation, which owns the plaza, to organize the event, which will have live music and beer from Brooklyn Brewery.

The food trucks will change every week to give visitors a variety. Erin McAuliffe, 25, of West Harlem came to the plaza for lunch and applauded the initiative Sunday.

"It's fun to try out all of these foods and spend a Sunday outdoors," she said as she ate her butternut squash soup from the Snow Day truck. "The space is great."

The plaza was the location of an open food market beginning in 1936. The EDC purchased the land in 1991. It fell into neglect before the corporation spruced it up with better lighting, newly painted rails and Wi-Fi.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem), who has supported the plaza for years, said she expects Vendy Plaza to be a hit for residents and visitors alike.

"We really wanted to demonstrate this as a gathering space for this community," she said.

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