A man browses at the greenmarket near Columbia, GrowNYC's only farmers' market in West Harlem
Residents of West Harlem say the neighborhood needs more heirloom tomatoes and free range fowl.
Community Board 9 and local community organizations including Montefiore Park Neighborhood Association and the West Harlem Art Fund passed a resolution in January calling for the opening of a farmers’ market in Montefiore Park, at 138th and Broadway by June 2011.
“The location makes so much sense—it has lots of foot traffic from the subway stop, bus stops, and commuters to City College,” said Brad Taylor, Chair of the CB9 Committee for Waterfront, Parks & Recreation.
If a farmers’ market does move in uptown it will be one of the few in Harlem, long known as a “food desert” with few options for fresh produce and other high-end dining. The only greenmarket in CB9 is the one near Columbia’s campus.
“West Harlem is woefully underserved,” said Taylor. “Greenmarket has been aware of the Harlem ‘food desert’ for years. In 2005, they were looking at market locations at various locations in Harlem. Yet if you look at their market map you’ll see that Greenmarket has no markets in East, Central, or West Harlem. You would have to ask them why they have had so little success over the years.”
Many involved in the effort to bring a farmers’ market to the area have complained that governmental programs and nonprofit organizations have not been doing enough to make it happen.
“For the past four years we have sent in requests for the market, said Savona Bailey-McClain, a member of the CB9 Economic Development Committee and director of the West Harlem Art Fund.
“Each and every year it is rejected. In the past they have claimed the foot traffic [is a problem], but there has always been foot traffic there.”
Margaret Hoffman, a representative for Greenmarket director Michael Hurwitz for GrowNYC, told attendees at a recent CB9 meeting that GrowNYC must be selective about opening new locations.
“Our issue for the most part is that we are a small, nonprofit organization and that we have very limited resources. We don’t always have the funds to do certain projects,” she said.
Taylor said that GrowNYC has opened numerous markets in other locations across the city.
“Years go by with residents imploring Greenmarket and Greenmarket in return saying they need to study a location and remaining noncommittal. In the intervening years, Greenmarket continues to set up and expand numerous markets in neighborhoods that can hardly be called food deserts—including the location adjacent to the Columbia campus at 115th and Broadway,” Taylor said.
However, Bailey-McClain does not feel that limited resources are the crux of the problem. “NYC organizations have rejected communities ofw color consistently. I hope this works out, but you never know.”
CB9 chair Larry English said bringing a farmers market, through GrowNYC or an independent market, would be a top priority this year.
“It is very difficult for a lady in her 80s to go on a bus to 110th Street for fresh food…. it’s a shame on the community board and New York,” he said.