OK, so this the official reason I came to New York. I am a graduate student studying history and culture with an emphasis on urban planning and how public markets create and define community. Marketplaces have been neighborhood centers in cities all over the world
since time began. In the city of Cincinnati, around the time of the Civil War, there were nine markets in operation. As the city grew, incline railways were installed to provide an easy way to navigate the hills surrounding the outskirts of town. With this new form of transportation, people migrated out of the inner-city to live in the “suburbs” of the time. As the population became less dense and methods of transportation became easier to navigate, there was less need for so many markets. Most residents didn’t have the need of a market place to be within walking distance of home. Refrigeration became more dependable, so food could be stored at home rather than purchased fresh every day. Luckily, my beloved Findlay Market in Over the Rhine made it through the lean years and has remained in continuous operation since it opened in 1852.
The Project for Public Spaces is a non-profit organization which opened in 1975 to help people who want to create more livable cities. Every summer and fall they host a conference and invite anyone to attend who is interested in preserving, growing, or building a successful market. The conference in June had attendees from California, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Mexico, Portugal, Canada, Australia, Ecuador, and Bermuda. It was an amazing two days of learning and conversation with people who have the same goal: to create and maintain a successful public market that will provide jobs, healthy food, and a community anchor in their cities. My goal was a bit different in that I was collecting information to build
a base of evidence for my thesis research.
The opportunity to visit seven iconic New York City markets and speak “market-ese” for two days was a dream come true. From the first few moments together everyone was talking, sharing stories, offering advice, asking questions, showing pictures, comparing demographics…all in all just the friendliest bunch of people ever. Then again, these are market people, when have you ever met a grump at a public market? The plus for me was that I learned so much about the structure of a successful market, how to create a good mix of vendors and how to manage the
vendors and encourage them to have an attractive, selling stall. We talked about how to create welcoming public space and how to control quality growth. So many new concepts to ponder and so many confirmations that my thesis proposal is solid. My mind was in overload mode for days after the conference concluded.
Next up…pictures and mini-critiques of Market Saturday.