New Astor Place outdoor market could be coming soon

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Enjoying a beautiful day in the new Astor Place plaza, which now sports tables and umbrellas, courtesy of the Village Alliance BID.
The South Plaza at Astor Place might be getting an outdoor market as early as this fall. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

BY GABE HERMAN | Plans are being explored to bring an outdoor market to Astor Place, perhaps as early as this fall.

The Village Alliance Business Improvement District has been seeking community feedback for ideas about the market, including meeting with local residents and businesses and presenting the plan at a Community Board 2 meeting.

William Kelley, the BID’s executive director, said the idea goes back to 2013, when people raised the idea in community workshops.

The concept has been envisioned in many forms, including a Greenmarket, a night market, a food market or a craft market. It’s not until now, though, that the BID has operationally been able to consider implementing the market initiative, Kelley said.

A Greenmarket seemed generally to be a favored option in the community, Kelley told the C.B. 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee in July. Since Astor Place is city Department of Transportation property, a formal request for proposals, or R.F.P., would be required for anything involving sales.

The BID has issued two R.F.P.’s, one for a weekly pop-up Greenmarket and another for more of a seasonal market that would run about three weeks at a time, similar to the Union Square Holiday Market. Kelley said that, ultimately, neither type of market might materialize, but that the BID wanted to cover all possibilities.

The Astor Place North Plaza might also be included in an outdoor market. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

“We are going to continue to talk to neighbors and businesses there, but also people who use the space but don’t live there,” Kelley told this paper. “We’re hopeful something could happen in the fall.”

Kelley said that markets can be community unifiers, and that a lot of the most successful outdoor spaces in the city have specific programming.

“We do hope it brings people,” he said, “and students can meet residents, can meet office workers.”

One of the suggestions from C.B. 2 was to involve local businesses in the market, which Kelley called “a great idea.”

The main market space would be the South Plaza at Astor Place, with the North Plaza also potentially having some stalls, as well.

A Greenmarket was favored by the C.B. 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee in July. Other recommendations for the space by the committee included having cooking demonstrations, prioritizing food and beverages, giving locals reduced prices for stalls, having crafts and a small winter holiday market, and avoiding an outdoor cafe atmosphere or an outdoor market like the popular Smorgasburg, “which overwhelms the space and would not be egalitarian,” according to the committee’s resolution.

While the outdoor market is not a done deal yet, the Village Alliance’s Kelley seemed confident there would be one soon in Astor Place, based on what the community and the BID want, he said. He added that if the market doesn’t happen this fall, then it would probably come about by next spring at the latest.