SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — New Amsterdam Market's artisanal vendors will not return to South Street Seaport, the founder said Monday, in a surprise announcement that will cut short the market's scheduled season.
The outdoor greenmarket’s founder, Robert LaValva, said he could not attract the funding necessary to keep the monthly event going through December.
LaValva also blamed the closure on City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the Seaport, accusing her of supporting controversial Pier 17 developer Howard Hughes' vision for the area's future instead of LaValva's push for a larger, more permanent public market.
"We were dealt a mortal blow in 2013 when Council Member Chin, who had long professed to support our cause, betrayed the community in favor of a suburban shopping mall developer, Howard Hughes,” LaValva said in statement, apparently referring to Chin's vote to support the development plans last year.
“As a result, Lower Manhattan has already lost more than one acre of beloved and irreplaceable public space," LaValva continued, "and is now seeing its most precious public asset ruined by inappropriate programming and terrible waterfront design."
LaValva's move to close the market — which was slated to bring its 70 vendors to its longtime home outside the former Fulton Fish Market buildings for one day each month — came as a shock to the nonprofit’s board members, said Roland Lewis, the chairman of the board.
“Robert emailed us this morning, and we were all very surprised,” said Lewis, who is also the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. “I don’t understand his statement about the councilwoman. I think she’s been a supporter of the market — and while it’s hard to run a nonprofit, I think we were doing well financially.”
LaValva had previously raised concerns about whether the market would be able to return this season, as the redevelopment of Pier 17 is underway. The market, which started in 2007, was a once a weekly fixture in the lot outside of the abandoned Fulton Fish Market warehouses, but became monthly last year.
LaValva had long spearheaded a grassroots effort to create a year-round market inside both the landmarked Tin Building and its neighboring former fish market warehouse, the New Market Building. Howard Hughes, however, has said the company plans to build a smaller market in just one of the buildings, a deal Chin helped negotiate.
LaValva has also been outspoken against Howard Hughes' plan to build a 50-story tower in the Seaport, which is still being debated.
Chin released a statement saying LaValva’s “email attack” on her was false and that she looks forward to working with the rest of New Amsterdam Market's board members, who, according to Lewis, say they would like to bring the market back to the Seaport — with or without LaValva.
"I proudly helped secure funding from the City Council and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in order to support the New Amsterdam Market," Chin said in the statement. "I made sure to provide Mr. LaValva and the New Amsterdam Market with opportunities to formalize his relationship with the City.
"Now, Mr. LaValva is trying to publicly blame me for a situation he could have prevented by working more collaboratively with my office and the City," Chin continued. "It might make for an attention-grabbing email blast, but it’s not the truth."
LaValva did not immediately return a request for comment.