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Market Could Open in Plaza Opposite Madison Square Park

By Alan Neuhauser | February 18, 2013 6:50am

MIDTOWN — A new market could be on the way to Worth Square, a thimble-size plaza adjacent to Madison Square Park — but some in the community are worried that vendors could overwhelm the tiny space.

The Parks Department is exploring the idea of inviting vendors to set up shop from spring to fall in the .75-acre plaza between 24th and 25th streets and sent a letter to Community Board 5 last month seeking the community's input.

The board approved a reply at its general board meeting on Thursday, expressing concern about the park's limited size and the commercial use of a public space.

"That whole area right to the west of Madison Square — it's complicated visually, and it's complicated to traverse, to get across," said Wally Rubin, the board's district manager.

"If you're on the west trying to get to the park, there a number of leaps that you have to make to get across. It's just a little complicated for the person on foot to understand what exactly they need to do."

The Parks Department has previously hosted markets in Worth Square for about three weeks at a time, but it was unclear how long this latest potential market would remain open. The department did not detail the type of vendors being eyed for the new market.

"There are a number of concerns that have to do in part with the length it takes up," Rubin said. "We have a continuing concern about the use of parks, streets, pedestrian plazas, for commercial use. Particularly commercial uses that don't have any — which is not true about this market — but don't give back to the community, that are purely Audi selling a car, or Pampers selling their diapers."

Late Friday morning, a food cart for Calexico was the only vendor in the square. Cart supervisor Ethan Stickley and line cook Anthony Suarez said they'd welcome a market.

"It's actually a lot of fun for us," Suarez said.

Business, meanwhile, is typically neither helped nor hurt by the markets.

"We're slower hour to hour, but we're typically here for longer, so it evens out," Stickley said of running the cart alongside a market.

There are holiday markets at Union Square and Columbus Circle, along with greenmarkets in other city parks and public spaces.

"Consulting with the community, we will determine whether to move ahead, and, if so, how to best structure such a market," Parks Department officials said.