New York’s Aqueduct Flea Market to close Jan. 1
It’s official — the famous Aqueduct Flea Market at Aqueduct Racetrack will not exist as of Jan. 1, 2011. Genting New York, a subsidiary of multinational Genting Group, has informed flea market owner Plain and Fancy Shows that the flea market must close with the first of the year, according to a report in the Queens Courier. The only hope now for the 1,000-plus vendors at the market is to find a new location. The news article says:
“Having heard from the vendors that they wanted an answer quickly in order to make their future plans, Resorts World New York expedited its review process,” said a spokesperson. “Since the Aqueduct facility will be a construction site for several months, the Division of the Lottery determined that the continued presence of the flea market would raise safety concerns in addition to being incompatible with the future use of the property.”
Carol DeSanto, general manager of the Aqueduct Flea Market, says the flea market’s fate was sealed when the deal to bring in the casino was inked. “We don’t have too much choice. This was, I believe, inevitable,” she says. “I think this deal was done a long time ago. Money talks. Big business talks.”
She says that Plain and Fancy Shows Inc., the show owner, was very willing to make compromises. “I told them I would tone down the market, make it smaller, give me another lot to work in, but apparently they don’t want a flea market in the parking lot where they are planning to have a high-end casino,” she says. “I guess a flea market doesn’t work into their plans. It really is a shame.”
DeSanto has not given up hope for a new venue, but she knows that, realistically speaking, it will be very hard. “Most places aren’t big enough for the market,” she says. “We’ve had real estate people looking for years to try to find something else for us in the area, but that seems impossible. We’re still looking.” She says that a lot of the stadiums don’t want it, or can’t offer the continuity a market would require.
Jay Factor, the owner of makeup suppliers Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics and Innovative Color Labs, has a lot of flea market experience in the New York area, having worked for Plain and Fancy Shows years ago. He ran flea markets at Roosevelt Raceway and Yonkers Raceway in the New York metro area, as well as the Antique Show at Madison Square Garden. “I was the general manager for Plain and Fancy when we operated the Roosevelt Raceway Flea Market prior to the company getting the Aqueduct market and Roosevelt closing,” he says.
Now he sells cosmetics wholesale, including to flea market vendors, one of whom sells at Aqueduct. “It’s sad to see it go,” he says. “It was a staple long before Plain and Fancy had it. The Aqueduct Flea Market has been in existence for about 30 years, and it is a staple for the community. And there is nothing else like it in the area any longer.”
Factor does think that the flea market could be successful in a new venue, if the rents were low enough. “I think there’s an excellent opportunity if somebody can find a physical location large enough, because the economy certainly seems right for a flea market,” he says.
Factor, who played a key role with Plain and Fancy founder Jack Bergman in helping create the current New York State law on tax collections at flea markets, says he himself would be interested in starting a new flea market in the right place. “If you find a good location, give me a call,” he says, laughing. “I have the people who are willing to back it. I’ve been looking for years, and I haven’t found the right location. There are sports facilities that would lend themselves, but they’re afraid.” Factor suggests that the borough president would have a great deal of influence in getting a new site rolling, and mentioned the parking lot at Citi Field, the new home of the Mets, as a possible site. Mets PR director Jay Horwitz had no comment on that, however, when contacted by FleaMarketZone.com.
The Queens Courier interviewed Queens Borough president Helen Marshall, who told the newspaper that Genting’s decision not to renew the flea market’s contract is understandable, but unfortunate. She told the Courier that the vendors “deserve to be relocated, and we are going to find them a site.”
Will help from the government really be forthcoming? Although the controversy has brewed for months, and been on the boil in recent weeks, there has been no communication between the market and the borough president’s office. “I have heard not one word, not the community board. I’ve heard from no one,” says DeSanto, adding that the news was released to the press before it was given to her. “I was only notified yesterday. Everyone was notified except me. I called up on Monday to ask about the lease, and I got a return call yesterday.”
But the market still has time. “We’re still looking for a place,” DeSanto says. “We close January, February, and March normally anyway. We’re going to try our best to see what we can do.”
Update: This story was updated shortly after publication with the addition of comments from Carol DeSanto.
Further update: FleaMarketZone.com has received a statement on the issue from Queens borough president Helen Marshall:
“It was very upsetting to see dozens of demonstrators out in the cold at the entrance to Aqueduct on the day of the recent announcement of the track’s future. While the State Lottery has final say about onsite retail at the site, we continue to be concerned about the vendors and their future. The immediate possible relocation site that comes to mind is Citi Field, and I encourage the Aqueduct Flea Market leadership to reach out to the City Department of Parks and Recreation to see if relocation is possible there or at another open-air site that would be appropriate.”