New Amsterdam Market’s closing worries South Street Seaport community

The South Street Seaport that New Yorkers are familiar with continues to fade.

The New Amsterdam Market, a Pier 17 staple since 2007 and one of the area’s last connections to a centuries-old tradition of public trade, unexpectedly announced it was shutting down Monday.

Community leaders said its closure leaves a void at the South Street Seaport, which is undergoing a complete overhaul slated for 2016.

Robert LaValva, the founder of the New Amsterdam, which operated out of the old Fulton Fish market space, sent an email to supporters saying the market had its last outing on June 21. LaValva, who didn’t return calls and messages for comment, wrote that his seven-year operation not only couldn’t secure funding but also wouldn’t have room in the future development in the area.

“As a result, Lower Manhattan has already lost more than one acre of beloved and irreplaceable public space and is now seeing its most precious public asset ruined by inappropriate programming and terrible waterfront design,” he wrote.

The market had been operating weekly between May and December hosting 70 food vendors, before going monthly this year. Catherine McVay Hughes, the chair of Community Board 1 which represents the area, said every time the market was open, huge crowds would flock to the pier and pick up cheeses, vegetables, fish and other locally organic grub.

“I went to the last one in June and you bump into a dozen of your friends. People altered their weekend plans to make sure they can shop,” she said.

Pier 17, the Seaport’s major shopping center, shut down in the fall for demolition and renovation by developer Howard Hughes Corporation, which wants to transform it into a high-end commercial development with new shops and a rooftop green space. The developer is also in the early planning stages of redeveloping the Tin Building and New Market Building, both of which housed the old fish market until 2005.

Sources say Howard Hughes Corp. had been working with LaValva to provide him with space in their redeveloped area. The developer said it was surprised by LaValva’s decision to shut down his market but is exploring opportunities to open a food market both in the short term and long term, according to a representative.

“We believe a year-around, accessible food market is a neighborhood necessity and we remain committed to bringing a food market to the area,” the representative said in a statement.

Jessica Lappin, the president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, said the market’s contributions to the community, especially following Superstorm Sandy, were invaluable.

“The New Amsterdam Market was at truly forward looking market experience, appreciated by New Yorkers and visitors alike,” she said.

Hughes, however, said she is concerned with the economic state of the area since the new Pier 17 two years away at the earliest. Hughes said she was upset that LaValva couldn’t turn it around and get more funding, because he helped turn around a “forlorn area” and turn it into a prime destination.

LaValva opened the New Amsterdam market after the Fulton Fish Market moved to the Bronx as a way to preserve “one of New York City’s oldest commons,” of an open air public food trade that he said dated back to 1642 with the original fish market.

He worked with several local community groups, including the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and the city to secure funding and make sure the tradition didn’t die in the 21st Century.

Some Seaport visitors said they were upset the market didn’t have enough steam to continue for the rest of the year. Jenna Agins, 29, said she thought there would some sort of shopping venue in the area following the months of construction at Pier 17.

“I was surprised to see that they’re still closed,” she said, referring to the shops on the pier.