multi-policy community development:
cultural infrastructure, historic preservation, economic development
NYC / East Harlem / El Barrio
about La Marqueta:
LA MARQUETA was established in 1936 by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as an innovative, City-operated response to what had become an extraordinary informal market of pushcart vendors assembled on the 5 consecutive lots beneath the Park Avenue Metro North Railway trestle between 111th and 116th streets:
“Five newly completed buildings that will house a modern, sanitary market where formerly a maze of pushcarts cluttered Park Avenue, from 111th to 116th Street, were opened yesterday morning by Mayor La Guardia. The Mayor said, ‘…and now instead of a food market this is really a market bazaar.” [New York Times, May 5, 1936]
This area of Manhattan, known as El Barrio / East Harlem / Spanish Harlem, has long been celebrated as a Latino cultural capital, with deep historic roots amongst the Italian, Jewish and even German communities. Today “El Barrio” remains a vital home to the diaspora of Puerto Rico, as well as other Latino communities of the Caribbean and Americas. Perhaps no other facility represents the history of this community better than La Marqueta.
It is estimated that as many as 500 vendors were operating out of La Marqueta during the 1950s and 60s. Sadly, with the onslaught of state and federal governments’ infamous “Urban Renewal” policies, the great La Marqueta declined. Most of the original buildings have since been lost.
Today, La Marqueta is literally a shell of itself. Two remaining buildings onsite house few vendors and support very little foot traffic. Two of the parcels where buildings once stood are fenced up and prohibit foot traffic. In an effort to re-ignite foot traffic, the third parcel has become a plaza used for community programs including the Vendy Plaza outdoor market series.
Fortunately, many of the area’s original residents remain, care deeply about the site, and maintain cherished memories of its La Marqueta’s community vitality. However, with that has come a multi-generational sense of frustration – and even disenfranchisement – over the lack of stewardship of a facility that has been City-owned and operated.
In 2014, third-term NYC Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito became the first Latina Speaker of the City Council and, as representative of the District, continued to bring her leadership to La Marqueta’s redevelopment. In 2015, placeful. was brought in to lead the redevelopment effort and leverage additional public and private funds. To date, $7,000,000 of capital financing has been secured toward the estimated $10M development costs for the first phase of the project.
Negotiations with the City over a vision to redevelop the site as part of a vibrant Park Avenue commercial corridor with a more sustainable community development agenda have been welcomed and successful, resulting in a revitalized public-private partnership that has been missing for decades. More specifically, by building on La Marqueta’s 20th Century history as an innovative marketplace, we plan to reframe that legacy for 21st century public-private partnerships including healthy food initiatives, educational and career training services, arts, culture and programmatic partnerships, as well as shared workspace and light manufacturing. The result will be a new kind of marketplace for a new century in a critical neighborhood of our city.
La Marqueta is not only a unique legacy project for the community and its local leadership. Given the perennial challenges that take root in our disenfranchised neighborhoods around issues such as city-operated community facilities, career training and food justice, La Marqueta is a gateway demonstration project. We believe that this vital community facility will further establish El Barrio’s reputation as an incubator of sustainable community development – both in New York City and abroad.
New York City Council
Empire State Development Corporation
Local Initiative Support Corporation
New York Community Trust
The Kresge Foundation
New York City Dept. of Small Business Services