Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chelsea Antiques Garage


A few years ago, the decades-old Chelsea Flea Market was forced to move to Hell's Kitchen, pushed out by the bulldozer of luxury high-rise development. As flea market founder Alan Boss told the Voice, "We as Americans, having little or no culture, we figure that if you can build on two feet by four feet, you should have a building there, and screw anything that came before it." So far, business in the new location has been slow, as Chelsea Now recently reported. Like many small businesses that try to survive on new ground, it's been hard to get a grip.

the site of the former flea market

The market's move was part of a rezoning plan that was hatched back in 1995, a plan that continues to ravage Chelsea today. The soul of what remains of the market in Chelsea, the Antiques Garage at 112 W. 25th St., will likely be the plan's next victim. The building that houses it was sold to a developer for $42.7 million a few months ago. And we all know what that means.

I visited Chelsea's Antiques Garage and talked to some of the long-time vendors. One told me that he's certain 2008 will be the final year for the Garage -- info he said he got "straight from the owner." So maybe it's time to load up on vintage comic books, taxidermied deer trophies, baby-doll heads, Bakelite jewelry, Shriner fezzes, and all the other good stuff that serves to remind us that the past exists and continues along with us, no matter how hard the city's planners try to erase it from our memories.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jeremiah, for the coverage of Hell's Kitchen Flea Market. The flea markets in Chelsea took years to develop. Alan Boss speaks of the first weekend at his first flea market in Chelsea in 1976 being "six dealers and seven customers."

As "oversuccess" (Jane Jacobs's term) relentlessly takes Manhattan--with too little being done to preserve mixed uses and create affordable housing--the old Chelsea flea market locations are now a canyon of sterile residential high-rises.

One of the positives of the new Hell's Kitchen South location is that there are still "mom and pop" stores there. Another is that there are no high-rises in very close proximity. (There are several along W 42nd St, with more coming.) One of the unexpected pleasures of Hell's Kitchen Flea Market ends up being...the view! You can actually SEE the west Midtown skyline from there in a sweeping manner. How long will that last? Who knows?

But there are other challenges, too. Tastes are changing among buyers, and some dealers are having a difficult time adapting. A 19th century 7-piece tea and coffee set is not going to be as popular these days as furniture from the 1950's and 1960's. The costs of fuel and parking in the city also hurting the dealers.

While patterns of purchasing among flea market customers is changing and sometimes erratic, it is encouraging to at least see the foot traffic at Hell's Kitchen Flea Market become stronger each year. Granted, some of that traffic consists of tourists, who are not likely to purchase a large-ticket item. Nonetheless, Hell's Kitchen Flea Market as a *destination location* is slowly, (painfully) slowly catching on.

(Hmmmmm. I might have to use some of the above as a post on FleaSpeech! *grin*!)

Jeremiah Moss said...

FleaSpeech, thanks for your insightful and informative comment. Please keep us posted on the market's developments--especially if the Antiques Garage is closing or moving elsewhere. And good luck keeping the Hell's Kitchen market going--nice t-shirts, by the way.

Anonymous said...

"--Patricia Fosen, 408 West 39th Street, complained about Alan Boss's flea-market concession in Hell's Kitchen. This was opposed by the locals, who had actively tried to beautify and civilize their block,but the Board and the City dumped the market on them anyway. Their block was not "desolate and unused," and they don't like the noise garbage, and intrusion. The Board claims Boss agreed to stipulations, but he flagrantly disregards them. Maybe the Board should realize that quality of life depends on underutilization."


Anonymous said...

Manhattan Community Board 4 is not a monolithic entity, but is comprised of many individuals with various perspectives, and some of them raised excellent ideas and concerns regarding the flea market, all of which seem to have been addressed, given the hugely overwhelming approval of the flea market's application for operation the last few years. Any criticism of the Board vis-à-vis HKFM seems stained at best.

Pat Fosen was a community resident with very strong opinions. She has not been in the neighborhood for about 2 years, however. She threw vegetables down onto the flea market one weekend morning from the roof of her building while NYC Commissioner Mildred Duran was present, and she was taken from the scene by the police. I do not believe anyone pressed charges.

Hell's Kitchen Flea Market paid not for the paint for the Painted Promenade on W 39th Street over Dyer Avenue, and also for the tree plantings on the street.

Anonymous said...

The MHC flea on Avenue B is gone now, too. Maybe it's not news to anyone but me... but I went over last weekend to research it for my site, and found that the lot was sold by the church this spring: East Village flea market: another one bites the dust