Space-Hogging Drivers, CB 12 Kill Washington Heights Greenmarket

185.jpgCB 12 traded a Greenmarket for 24/7 parking privileges on 185th Street, which holds 19 cars. Photo: Brad Aaron

Last September, Manhattan Community Board 12 tabled a resolution in support of a new Greenmarket for W. 185th Street in Washington Heights. The effort to locate the market was community-driven — a neighborhood resident gathered 1,000 signatures in support of it — the board’s parks committee was enthusiastically in favor, and the city’s Greenmarket office was in the process of securing a tow truck to remove errant vehicles. But the idea stalled when a handful of area residents predicted the market would draw noisy early-morning crowds, and complained that it would tie up the street’s 19 parking spots for a few hours a week.

Earlier that month, the board’s transportation committee declined to vote on the market, citing concerns over parking. Said committee member Jim Berlin: "There are thousands of people in the area who own cars, any of whom might park there at some point. We want to hear from the community and whether they want to give up their parking." 

Though there were only a few of them at the general meeting (three who weren’t board members, to be exact), detractors put on a nasty public show, and the proposal was sent back to the parks committee. Two months ago, the Manhattan Times reports, the board signed off on a different plan: a Friday market on the sidewalk at Ft. Washington Avenue and 181st Street. But it’s not going to happen, according to Greenmarket Director Michael Hurwitz.

"That is no more," Hurwitz said. "We found a location that would serve a bigger community."

location is somewhere around W. 168th Street — a market that was
thought to be yet another greenmarket at the May Community Board 12
Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting.

"The community totally supported the
addition of a Greenmarket at 181st Street," said Elizabeth Ritter,
chair of the Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee. She pointed out that
the 181st Street location was approved by Hurwitz before discussion
started about a market near the hospital.

"The community would love to have both," she said.

Had it not been for a relatively tiny number of entitled drivers, and their enablers, the community may have gotten its wish.

  • James

    This is too bad. I’m a little unclear at one point, though: if street residents were worried about losing those nineteen parking spots, couldn’t they just park their cars in those spots the evening before, preventing others from parking there the day of the Greenmarket?

  • The nearest greenmarket is every Thursday at 175th St & Broadway. That’s on the same site as one of the pedestrian plazas the city is installing.

  • “…The idea stalled when a handful of area residents predicted the market would draw noisy early-morning crowds.” Really? People’s voices and footsteps are louder than internal combustion engines and honking? Someone folks need to get their ears checked.

    And here’s committee member Jim Berlin: “There are thousands of people in the area who own cars, any of whom might park there at some point. We want to hear from the community and whether they want to give up their parking.” Apparently he doesn’t want to hear from people who use mass transit or want to buy fresh vegetables.

    I wish there were a greenmarket in the West 90s. We’ve lost several supermarkets over the past 25 years, most recently the C-Town, and the small grocers charge such ridiculous sums I’ve stopped buying from them.

  • “their parking”


  • Mark – your points are well taken. I would love to do some work with the youth in that area and see what they think about the cars vs healthy food. They often see the insanity in these choices.

    BTW, Livable Streets Education has been working with PS 163 on West 97th between Columbus and Amsterdam. They have a Greenmarket on Fridays from 9 am to 2 pm year round. You probably haven’t seen it because it is during the work week. Here is a link to get the other locations for markets:

  • Kate

    It’s absolutely pathetic. This is regressive thinking and behavior. I was at that meeting and the arguments against the Greenmarket were baseless and stupid. I live up there, I have a car which I park in a garage. I can’t believe a handful of petty complaints and 19 parking spaces is going to prevent what would have made the community so much more worthwhile as a place to live. I have serious doubts about anything improving up there and am thinking it wasn’t such a sound investment after all. Jim Berlin should keep his self-interested, small-minded thinking to himself.

  • eLK

    I’m a car owner and I’m willing to give up my parking spot for a Greenmarket.
    I live in the neighborhood and even signed the petition. There seems to be an assumption that people who want Greenmarkets are exclusively pedestrians.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I can’t believe we live in a city where a so-called “Community Board” allows this to happen.

    These 1,000 signatures should be presented to local elected officials. Demand that they get behind the green market. Petitioners should also consider holding a substantial protest rally at the next Community Board meeting. Show the local press how foolish these Community Board members are. Ask Scott Stringer and your local Council member to get rid of CB members whose interests are clearly no longer in line with the community. Petitioners should also simply go around the Community Board. DOT, for example, could change the parking regulations on this street and permit a green market, if they chose to do so. DOT doesn’t need Community Board approval. DOT owns the streets.

    The bigger lesson here is: Don’t go to the Community Board with “just” 1,000 signatures. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. Go to the CB with elected official and city agency support for your plan. Show the Community Board that their only real option is to request changes around the edges of your plan and that trying to reject the plan as a whole would be futile.

  • Once again, the care and feeding of cars triumphs over the care and feeding of people. Way to go, CB 12!

  • I move that Urbanis’ comment above remain the “Word on the street” comment for the rest of the week.

  • Shemp

    I disagree with Barfowitz – don’t go to the CB at all unless it’s a legal requirement like a ulurp application. Line up the deal with electeds, city agencies and everyone else and if the CB hears about it and wants to get involved, that’s the CB’s business. Asking a CB for permission on anything worthwhile is a huge mistake. That’s simply a road to unnecessarily empowering these boards that institutionally are a general failure.

  • Paul

    Ridiculous. I wouldn’t listen to anyone who leaves 3000 pound of their junk in the street.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    That’s basically what I’m saying, Shemp. We agree. Let the Community Board get involved at the end of the process if they want — after you’ve gotten your petition signatures, your electeds’ support and the city agency backing that you need.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Petitions are a weak play. Really only useful as a source of data on peoples addresses and contact numbers, something usually omitted by the petitioners who seek a larger number of signatures to magnify the perception of clout. How many of 1000 signatures can you rally to come to a meeting with an elected, a dozen maybe, that would be a success. I only bring this up because I think it is demonstrative of our bland concepts of civic remonstration.

  • Ron Logan

    Wow, the gloves are off. a green market or parking. Thought this was just a Seinfeld routine. Never been to NYC but shouldn’t be surprised. They’re not building any more dirt to build and/or drive on.
    Interesting stuff for a guy from Vancouver BC
    As a Realtor I find it interesting that a ‘second’ parking spot here will run $40 -50K, or more, depending on the downtown neighborhood. suspect that’s chump change in the Big town.

  • Groucho

    So let the automotive 19 park for the day in the Castle Village garage at 186th and Cabrini. It’s 2 minutes away and anyone who can afford to fill a tank can afford the one day fee.

  • LN

    There’s plenty of space at the end of Pinehurst Ave at the top of the steps and/or within Bennett park for a green-market. I don’t know why that particular block is a make-or-break issue for a greenmarket in that area.

  • This accurate description (I was there at this meeting) just shows how dysfunctional CB12 is. I’ve seen this sort of thing over and over. They frequently seem to make the wrong decisions, one way or another. They also seem to demand that everyone favoring an idea appear before them or else the idea has no merit. This, when the vast majority of people in the community board (1) do not know what a community board IS, (2) know that the CB is discussing a particular topic and a particular time and place, and (3) know that the CB needs to have a lot of people pushing an idea and no one opposing an idea to even get a vote. And even then, they can be overriden by city and state agencies and authorities.


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