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Queens Night Market is thriving post-pandemic

Since it’s opening in 2015, Queens Night Market has built a reputation for its large crowds, diverse vendors, and delicious cheap bites. Although the pandemic forced the food festival to limit capacity and enforce restrictions, it has now returned to full capacity and shows no signs of slowing down.
Queens Night Market founder John Wang and his partner, oral historian and author of the book The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market, Storm Garner, discussed the festival’s origins, success, and cultural importance.
“The really short story is that I was a lawyer, got tired of it, paid off the student loans, and wanted to try something new,” Wang explained. “There were a lot of ideas, but one that seemed really cool was to start New York’s first night market, modeled off the ones I experienced in Taiwan but also something that was uniquely New York.
“We also wanted something uniquely un-New York: being affordable,” he added. “That was the genesis of the $5 price cap.”
Although the food at Queens Night Market is inexpensive, it does a remarkable job of representing the many diverse communities living within the borough.
“The truth is that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx are all diverse, but Queens just happens to be the most diverse,” Wang said. “I think the year we launched was the year that Queen’s was named the ‘World’s Borough.’ It is, by some accounts, the most diverse place in the world.”
“I think it really is something unique,” Garner chimed in. “It felt a bit like an endangered species during the Trump era and certainly during the pandemic, but now it feels like it’s coming back.
“I challenge anyone to think of a place in all of New York, diverse as it is, where you can stand in the same place and within 50 feet of you in any direction talk to somebody whose life story is so different from your own and the person next to them,” she added. “The seven train is often just as diverse, but less happy.”
Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of the famous 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the Queens Night Market features over 100 vendors whose artwork, merchandise, and food celebrates the cultural diversity of Queens.
Yet like all of New York City’s institutions, the market was fundamentally challenged by the pandemic. Although many vendors are returning this year alongside the festival, others were not able to support themselves without a year’s worth of revenue.
“One of my favorite vendors, someone who I thought was really nice, lost her ability to be a vendor at the Night Market,” Wang explained. “ They lost their apartment because they couldn’t pay rent and had to move in with extended family out of town. We’ve been trying hard to get them back to New York.”
Despite these hardships, Queens Night Market continues to be a source of great joy for both Wang and Garner.
“There’s usually five or 10 or 15 minutes, usually when I have a beer or wine in my hand, that I can sit back and enjoy what has happened,” Wang said. “You stare around at all the smiling faces and it looks like all of New York City is in attendance.”
“If you come to the Night Market, especially in the last few weeks since the pandemic reopening, I have to say it’s just the most magical feeling,” Garner said. “It’s just so much joy. There are so many uncynical New Yorkers, who I’m sure they’re cynical in most of their lives, but for a few hours on a Saturday night everyone’s nice to each other.”
Queens Night Market is held at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park near the New York Hall of Science every Saturday night from 6 p.m. until Midnight. The market’s summer season lasts until August 21 and is followed by a fall season lasting from September 18 until October 30.

Queens Night Market is thriving post-pandemic

Since its opening in 2015, Queens Night Market has built a reputation for its large crowds, diverse vendors, and delicious cheap bites. Although the pandemic forced the food festival to limit capacity and enforce restrictions, it has now returned to full capacity and shows no signs of slowing down.
Queens Night Market founder John Wang and his partner, oral historian and author of the book The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market, Storm Garner, discussed the festival’s origins, success, and cultural importance.
“The really short story is that I was a lawyer, got tired of it, paid off the student loans, and wanted to try something new,” Wang explained. “There were a lot of ideas, but one that seemed really cool was to start New York’s first night market, modeled off the ones I experienced in Taiwan but also something that was uniquely New York.
“We also wanted something uniquely un-New York: being affordable,” he added. “That was the genesis of the $5 price cap.”
Although the food at Queens Night Market is inexpensive, it does a remarkable job of representing the many diverse communities living within the borough.
“The truth is that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx are all diverse, but Queens just happens to be the most diverse,” Wang said. “I think the year we launched was the year that Queens was named the ‘World’s Borough.’ It is, by some accounts, the most diverse place in the world.”
“I think it really is something unique,” Garner chimed in. “It felt a bit like an endangered species during the Trump era and certainly during the pandemic, but now it feels like it’s coming back.
“I challenge anyone to think of a place in all of New York, diverse as it is, where you can stand in the same place and within 50 feet of you in any direction talk to somebody whose life story is so different from your own and the person next to them,” she added. “The seven train is often just as diverse, but less happy.”
Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of the famous 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the Queens Night Market features over 100 vendors whose artwork, merchandise, and food celebrates the cultural diversity of Queens.
Yet like all of New York City’s institutions, the market was fundamentally challenged by the pandemic. Although many vendors are returning this year alongside the festival, others were not able to support themselves without a year’s worth of revenue.
“One of my favorite vendors, someone who I thought was really nice, lost her ability to be a vendor at the Night Market,” Wang explained. “ They lost their apartment because they couldn’t pay rent and had to move in with extended family out of town. We’ve been trying hard to get them back to New York.”
Despite these hardships, Queens Night Market continues to be a source of great joy for both Wang and Garner.
“There’s usually five or 10 or 15 minutes, usually when I have a beer or wine in my hand, that I can sit back and enjoy what has happened,” Wang said. “You stare around at all the smiling faces and it looks like all of New York City is in attendance.”
“If you come to the Night Market, especially in the last few weeks since the pandemic reopening, I have to say it’s just the most magical feeling,” Garner said. “It’s just so much joy. There are so many uncynical New Yorkers, who I’m sure they’re cynical in most of their lives, but for a few hours on a Saturday night everyone’s nice to each other.”
Queens Night Market is held at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park near the New York Hall of Science every Saturday night from 6 p.m. until Midnight. The market’s summer season lasts until August 21 and is followed by a fall season lasting from September 18 until October 30.

For more information, visit queensnightmarket.com.

Freedom Market fosters dialogue and community

After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May, concerned Greenpointers responded by organizing the McCarren Gathering. The Gathering, which was organized in part by the group North Brooklyn Mutual Aid, meets daily in McCarren Park to address racial injustice, economic injustice, and other issues afflicting BIPOC communities.
In addition to the daily meetings, McCarren Gathering has organized other events and initiatives since its inception over a year ago. One such initiative is the Freedom Market, which promotes and sells products from local BIPOC-owned small businesses.
“Freedom Market was created because of struggle,” said organizer Trevor Bayack. “It came out of this struggle I saw, the way that racism is rooted in economic issues. So we started coming together to talk strategy so we could channel resources from the haves to the have nots.”
The Freedom Market hopes to achieve this goal by offering exposures to local small businesses owned by people of color. The products on sale at the market range from baked goods to home essentials like soap, and customers are encouraged to bring their own bags and shop sustainably.
In addition to its economic mission, the Freedom Market — like the McCarren Gathering as a whole — aims to foster conversations about the realities of racism and the economic, social, and emotional impacts it has.
Originally from East Flatbush, Bayack moved to Greenpoint a couple years ago. He sees the Freedom Market and McCarren Gatherings as an opportunity to educate other Greenpointers and make the neighborhood more thoughtful and inclusive.
“Me personally, I had never fully felt welcome at McCarren Park,” said Bayack. “That’s why the McCarren Gathering is so empowering, because it’s occurring in a space that was not made for the Black and Brown community.”
“The people at the Gatherings are not people I would normally see,” he added. “After the murder of George Floyd, many people realized that they had to take action. So it isn’t preaching to the choir, but sharing our message with the community that needs to hear it.”

While the Freedom Market and McCarren Gathering is meant in part to educate people about injustice, the event is still primarily focused on elevating the voices and work of BIPOC communities.
“What we try to do at McCarren Gathering and the Freedom Market is let the people most affected be in leadership positions and have their voices heard,” said Bayack. “Our white allies are invaluable, but still they attend with the knowledge to defer to the affected communities.”
The Freedom Market is held every Friday at 7 p.m. near the baseball fields in McCarren Park, weather permitting. Additionally, McCarren Gathering organizes other programming at their daily meetings, including book clubs, open mics, self-defense classes, yoga instruction, and special pop-up events in other locations.

For additional information, follow Freedom Market on Instagram @freedommarketnbk.

Farmers market brings fresh food to Laurelton

For years, Dianna Rose walked by the parking lot of the LIRR station in Laurelton and wondered why there was never a farmers market in the space. In her mind’s eye, Rose saw beautiful white tents filled with vendors selling flowers, produce, and everything in between.
Last year, that vision became a reality when Rose launched the Laurelton Farmers Market, the first Black-run farmers market in Southeast Queens. Now in its second year, the market brings flowers, food, and community to the residential neighborhood.
“Our mission statement is to cultivate community and to be a place where community grows,” Rose explained in an interview this past week. “The Laurelton Farmers market was cultivated because of our community and the lack of access to farm fresh produce and homemade small batch products.
“I love a good farmers market, and I just didn’t understand why Laurleton didn’t have one,” she added.
Rose had the idea to call the railroad directly to see if they would support her dream. She was put in contact with various different departments before finally connecting with someone who supported the idea. The LIRR became an official partner to the project and continues to help it develop.
Simultaneously, Rose worked to pitch the idea to her community by posting about it in The BlaQue Resource Network Facebook Group.
“I said ‘hey, who would like to see a farmers market in Laurelton’ and the response was amazing,” said Rose. “We knew it was gonna be a success. The community had already seen the vision.”
Despite the widespread support, the Laurelton Farmers Market’s inaugural season was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest hurdle we had last year was getting farmers to come to the market,” Rose explained. “Many farmers were already booked at markets or didn’t have the capacity to support additional markets. This year we are proud to say we don’t have that issue.”
The market launched its second season on May 15 with a wide selection of produce, seafood, flowers, meat from an on-site butcher, and handicrafts from various artisans.
“Now people are coming and seeing what they expect,” said Rose. “It has been such a beautiful response and people keep coming back.”
The Laurelton Farmers Market has also found support from many of Queens’ elected officials. Rose thanked State Senator Leroy Comrie for being particularly supportive of the market and for helping to secure the LIRR partnership.
Borough President Donovan Richards and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz are also both supporters and frequent visitors of the market as well.
Rose is confident that the market will help support the local community and business. She is particularly excited by the market’s partnership with Ernest Foods, the first Black-owned organic supermarket in Jamaica.
Ernest Foods is set to open its brick-and-mortar location this summer and has already begun selling produce at the Laurelton market.
Rose also has plans to open two new markets throughout Queens this summer. A market in St. Albans is set to open in June followed by a Queens Village market in July. The new locations will also be in the parking lots of LIRR stations thanks to the partnership.
After the success of the Laurelton Farmers Market, Rose is hopeful that more people will be inspired to take on similar endeavors.
“I’ve had maybe ten people call me since launching the farmers market last year, whether it’s a community group or an individual, who say that they always wanted to do a farmers market. People are unsure and don’t know where to start, so it helps to see that it’s been done before. It’s motivating.”
The Laurelton Farmers Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Laurelton LIRR station. Interested vendors can apply at laureltonfarmersmarket.com.

More information about the market is available on Instagram (@sovereignmarkets) and Facebook (@laureltonfarmersmarket).

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