Moore Street Market edit info

108-110 Moore Street Brooklyn 11206 (Humboldt Street & Varet Street)
t: (718) 384-1371
hours: M-Thur 8am-6pm, Fri & Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 10am-5pm
Cash and Credit Cards
“During the first half of the 20th century, New York City’s Department of Markets identified the city’s “food problem” as one of adequate, affordable and safe supply. A network of markets – wholesale, farmers, stoop-line, pushcart, retail, and enclosed – were recommended to be capitalized, constructed, and managed by the city in an effort to feed its millions of residents, and the department ultimately constructed nine enclosed markets as part of a vast spatial organization to rid the streets of pushcart vendors.

Elected in 1933, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia targeted the pushcarts as intolerable vestiges of immigrant life. In 1935, Commissioner Morgan wrote that the enclosed markets would be responsible for “changing the pushcart peddler of today into the small merchant of tomorrow” - a line that Mayor LaGuardia repeated at the opening of the Moore Street Market. Though initially unpopular with vendors and customers alike, the enclosed markets served many people. The department’s 1938 Annual Report states that, on its busiest days, the 1st Ave market had more than 30,000 customers and by September, 1939 the Essex Street Market was near completion and slated to open with room for 520 pushcart dealers. The day before the Moore Street Market opened an article appeared stating the market would end “the obnoxious features of the pushcart while preserving its principal benefit, inexpensive wares, and giving the consumer more protection” (author unknown, The New York Times, 1941).

Opening day on July 28, 1941 drew a crowd of over 800 spectators (see photo above). LaGuardia urged the crowd to continue patronizing the stores in the neighborhood, stressing that the market was not intended as competition for the neighborhood stores.

However, because the city regulated prices in the market, the market would keep storekeepers from “jacking up their prices” (author unknown, The New York Times, 1941). The market would assure sanitary conditions and control over scales and prevent profiteering. In total, the Moore Street Market cost $204,807 and had 150 stalls. It was the fifth enclosed public market to be built in New York City.

After its well-publicized opening, there is little to no written record of the Moore Street Market in the popular press. However, it appears that the market continued to be an important source of inexpensive - and likely lower-quality, lower-grade - goods, as the enclosed markets, and the pushcarts that preceded them, were intended to be.

In 1961, the city announced plans to build Lindsay Park, a Mitchell-Lama project whose first stage would include 1,921 co-ops intended to be middle-income housing. The new construction displaced a 16-square block area of 189 “run-down buildings” housing 1,300 families and 300 businesses. The neighborhood around the Moore Street Market was described as “rich in tradition, but poor in almost every other way” (Fried, 1961). Likely reflecting the changing demographics of East Williamsburg, the majority of the market’s customers at the time were not the “first or second generation Jews, Italians or Irish,” but Puerto Rican.

In 1964 the Department of Markets declared that the city’s seven remaining public markets were “outmoded, ill used and ineffective merchandising mediums,” described them as “sloppy” supermarkets, and recommended that the close them all. Over the next few weeks, The New York Times printed a number of impassioned Letters to the Editor defending the markets’ importance as social and cultural institutions that stood in contrast to the rapidly modernizing city.

The markets were also recognized as places to buy otherwise hard-to-find Caribbean and Latin American foods. By 1966, there were six remaining markets, including the Moore Street Market; all but one had been saved from closure.

Over the next three decades, there is again little record of the Moore Street Market, though other remaining markets continued to appear in the press – either as examples of ethnic emporia, but more often in articles detailing threats to their existence, and the subsequent outcry of customers, vendors, and the general public.

Based on conversations with vendors and long-time residents of the neighborhood around the Moore Street Market, however, the market continued to be a central place in their lives. The streets around the market bustled with activity; it was so crowded, one man reminisced, that it would take three minutes to cross Moore Street. Other people who were asked about the market inevitably brightened as they describe the crowded aisles, the sociability and the rows of produce in narrow stalls.

In 1993, the architectural firm of Hirsch/Danois won a competition to upgrade the market. The market was described as a place where grocers sell produce from South America, with an emphasis on “edible roots of every description.” Plans included adding bright graphics, “dropped-canopy ceilings” and relocating the coolers - previously “scattered casually about the floor” - to the basement. The impact of the upgrade, however, was limited.

In March 2007, after years of providing operating subsidies to the market, NYC EDC, the City’s manager of the property, announced that the Moore Street Market would close on June 15, 2007 to make way for affordable housing. Community opposition, however, was universal, and negotiations began to find a new operator for the market that would bring it back to productivity and profitability.

On December 23, 2008, BEDC signed a five year lease to manage and operate the market.



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