MIDTOWN — Christmas is cancelled for these holiday vendors.
A recently opened outdoor market on Lexington Avenue selling an assortment of accessories and Christmas items was shuttered this week after city officials discovered a severe fire hazard at the site.
The Lexington Avenue Shopping Court opened at the end of August in a vacant lot on the corner of 56th Street, with 35 vendors selling everything from Christmas ornaments and handbags to handmade jewelry and fidget spinners.
But during an inspection on Monday, the Department of Buildings Special Operations unit found unprotected space heaters alongside wooden stalls at the inaugural market and promptly closed it down.
“The stalls were built from combustible materials, had no fire protection, and were using space heaters, which themselves can be a fire hazard,” said Department of Buildings spokesperson Joseph Soldevere.
On Thursday, vacate orders had been plastered all over the entrances stating that the conditions were "imminently perilous to life."
“It was the shortest stint in history!” said Wardell Striggles, who works security for the East Midtown Partnership and has been patrolling the neighborhood for 15 years. “Like swatting a fly.”
Many passersby seemed surprised at the market’s sudden closure.
“I came out here to buy ornaments,” said Denise Hilton, who had planned to shop at the Ornaments By Elves stall during her lunch break. “It’s sad, they just opened.”
When contacted by phone, some of the market's vendors said they were unsure about the fate of the shopping center, where they signed leases to operate their stalls. Many of the sellers don’t have permanent storefronts and make their living at temporary markets and holiday fairs.
“It’s frustrating,” said Jun Ma of Kaylee Collection Inc., who was on site when the market was shut down. “Even though the houses are made out of wood, if there was a fire we could easily get out.”
The shopping center's manager, Mardi Gras Productions, also operates street fairs and other vendor markets around the city. The company didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.
Some vendors said the company was working to get the market reopened, but that they hadn’t been given any updates as of Friday afternoon.
One vendor, who requested anonymity to protect the relationship with the site's manager, was shocked when city officials showed up and kicked them off the property.
“They didn’t tell us anything,” the vendor said.
KDI Lexington Inc, bought the property on which the market sits for $33.9 million in 2010, with the four lots there sitting vacant since at least 2011, when a four-story building on the site was demolished, according to Striggles and property records. The owner didn't respond to a request for comment.