Wyckoff Hospital Farmers' Market Shot Down by City Over Congestion Concerns

By Meredith Hoffman on May 29, 2012 10:35am 

The city has opposed a nonprofit's proposal to open a farmers' market outside Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Bushwick.
The city has opposed a nonprofit's proposal to open a farmers' market outside Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Bushwick.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

BUSHWICK — Kale, carrots and collard greens have been denied a spot outside a Bushwick hospital this summer.

The nonprofit EcoStation NY's farmers' market, originally slated to open Wednesday in front of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, was denied its permit to sell there by the city last week, even though the hospital's administration supports the produce stands.

"It's all very confusing and frustrating to us," said Travis Tench, director of markets for EcoStation NY, which operates three Bushwick Farmers' Markets and a trio of soon-to-open "satellite stands."

Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for the city's Street Activity Permit Office, which issued the denial, said the local community board and police rejected the market due to heavy traffic in the area.

"We felt the area of Wyckoff is too congested as it is and safety would be an issue," confirmed Nadine Whitted, chairwoman of Bushwick's Community Board 4. "Other locations are recommended."

However, the hospital has come out in favor of the market, noting it would offer the types of food local residents need.

“Bushwick Farmers’ Market will be a strong community partner in providing healthy, wholesome goods to our family and friends in the neighborhood," said Ramon Rodriguez, the hospital's chief executive officer.

Tench added that there is plenty of room for his three 8-foot-8 tents.

"The sidewalk is 22-feet wide. It's one of the biggest spaces in that area," he said. "To say there's congestion is not a reasonable argument. Vehicle traffic shouldn't be an issue, and as far as pedestrian traffic, there's 14 feet to walk."

Now, Tench explained, his greenmarket will have to find another spot to hawk fresh fruits and veggies.

"There are a lot of people coming in and out of the hospital, so it's a natural fit," he said of the stall, which would stand on the corner of Stanhope Street and Wyckoff Avenue Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m.

Tench noted that his nonprofit group already hosts workshops about healthy living for patients in Wyckoff's women's center.

Sean-Michael Fleming (left) and Travis Fench of the Bushwick Farmers' Market at the Brooklyn Food Conference last month.
Sean-Michael Fleming (left) and Travis Fench of the Bushwick Farmers' Market at the Brooklyn Food Conference last month.
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Eco Station NY

"We do outreach here," he said, noting that his organization educates groups on where to find fresh produce markets. "We thought, why not bring a market to them?"

Tench said EcoStation NY spoke to hospital administrators and also petitioned to the 83rd Precinct to reconsider the stands.

Officials with the NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tench also said that the enterprise wouldn't take up street parking since the nonprofit is about to purchase a bus that will run off veggie oil and be used to cart produce from the main markets to the smaller ones.

Produce comes from EcoStation NY's two city farming projects — one at the Bushwick Campus, which houses four public high schools, and the other on the roof of Brooklyn Fireproof arts and entertainment venue — as well as from independent farmers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Tench said.

More than 60 varieties of vegetables are grown at the organization's two gardens, and the season kicks off Thursday with a festival at the Bushwick Campus, EcoStation NY educator Maggie Cheney said.

"We’re trying to increase produce and education," said Cheney, who teaches farming to students at the Bushwick Campus and has an apprenticeship program for adults at Brooklyn Fireproof.

"There aren't a lot of healthy choices for healthy non-chemical produce," she said of the neighborhood.

EcoStation NY's three main markets, opening this week, operate Wednesdays on Linden Street and Broadway from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays on Halsey Street and Broadway from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays by Maria Hernandez Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The two satellite markets operate Thursdays on Irving Avenue and Woodbine Street from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturdays by Irving Square Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"It's a way to reach more people in places where there isn't as much foot traffic as where the main markets are," Tench said of the satellite additions.

"But it's definitely a place where there's a need."

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