Proposal to close Jackson Heights street for food fair

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GrowNYC’s Greenmarket hopes to turn 78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights into a farmers market every Sunday.
GrowNYC’s Greenmarket hopes to turn 78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights into a farmers market every Sunday.

A local farmers market is promoting a fresh idea for Jackson Heights — converting a serene street into a bustling bazaar.

GrowNYC’s Greenmarket, which is the only year-round farmers market in Queens, will present a proposal to Community Board (CB) 3 on January 19, hoping the Jackson Heights community supports the closing of 78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard every Sunday to hold a food fair.

“We found that when the street is closed, it created a much more user friendly market,” said Michael Hurwitz, director of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket program. “It will create more aisle space, making the market less crowded, and cars will not be coming through, making it safer. This will provide more space for everything, including cooking demonstrations.”

The farmers market is currently on the sidewalk of 34th Avenue between 78th and 77th streets, but Councilmember Daniel Dromm believes the slight shift will do wonders for the neighborhood hotspot.

“The farmers market is an integral part of our community, and shifting it over to 78th Street makes sense,” said the councilmember, who believes the change will ease congestion, both for passing cars and patrons of the fair. “Seventy Eighth Street is longer, and since the street will be closed, it will also be wider. It provides a little more room for expansion and provides a safety net for the people to shop there. If you go there on a Sunday afternoon, it is just a great place to be, with the farmers market and Traverse Park. It has become another landmark of community life in Jackson Heights.”

Edwin Westely, the president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, believes the street switch will also make shopping safer and more convenient.

“Right now it becomes ‘dodge the car’ when you shop there,” said Westley, who fully supports the relocation. “The street where the market is now is much more congested.”

During the summer, the block is closed off from cars and transformed into a play street for neighborhood children. According to Will Sweeney, co-founder of the Green Alliance, which organizes the play street, the market will not interfere with the children’s recreational space.

“We believe that the street makes more sense with more people using it, and more people use it as a farmers market and play street,” said Sweeney, who has worked closely with Greenmarket in developing this plan. “We are hoping to turn it into a public plaza, with the farmers market on some days and games for kids on others.”

Jackson Heights currently has the second least park space in the five boroughs, prompting community leaders to push for the purchase of the yard at the Garden School, also located on 78th Street — across from Travers Park — to create a neighborhood piazza.

The city is currently in talks to procure the space, which is roughly 29,000 square feet, from the cash-strapped private school, but negotiations have been delayed for over a year.

“I’m hopeful an agreement can and will be reached,” Dromm said. “I’m confident the parties are working out the details.”