A few years ago, the Market Company organized an outdoor farmers' market on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 65th Street. Located in the NET (Neighborhood Enhancement Team) parking area, adjacent to Legion Park, it quickly expanded and became a Saturday meeting place for hundreds of Upper Eastsiders looking for fresh produce, flowers, stone crabs, honey, bread, and a variety of other goodies. Available during only the winter months, it folded a couple of years ago and didn't return, much to the dismay of neighborhood denizens.
About a year later, a very small version of an outdoor market was established in the parking lot on Biscayne at NE 79th Street but wasn't too successful. Vendors were unhappy about the large, busy intersection people had to cross to get to their stands and the windy, noisy conditions created by the heavy flow of traffic. Then Terranova Corporation, which owns the shopping plaza, complained that the outdoor marketplace was competing with the commercial stores in the mall. Vendors held on for as long as they could but were finally asked to leave.
Now there's a new project at Legion Park.
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Melissa Contreras, organizer of the latest incarnation of the market and creator of the Urban Oasis Project, says, "The supermarket [on 79th Street] thought we were competing with them and told Terranova to basically get rid of us. District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff was contacted, and he told us that we could move our vendors here [to NE 65th Street and Biscayne] for as long as we wanted, and here we are. All we ever wanted to do was to get fresh food to the neighborhood."
So far, there are only a few booths providing sugar-cane drinks by Clive the Jamaican juice man, flowers by Asha Orchids, natural organic honey (the vendor is classical guitarist Paul Martin, who also has CDs of his music for sale), plus a solid assortment of fruits and vegetables and green plants. But Contreras hopes more Upper Eastsiders will begin to patronize the newly formed farmers' market and thus allow for an expansion of goods for sale. Musical background tunes (mostly Bob Marley favorites) are played by reggae musician Akete.
The market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but a short hiatus is in the works for the summer. Be green and bring your own grocery bags. Ample free parking is available in Legion Park's lot, east of Biscayne Boulevard. Take NE 64th Terrace, turn left into the park, and you're a minute's stroll from the fresh food. You are what you eat.