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Activism Saves "La Marqueta" Of Brooklyn

By Jeanine Ramirez

January 31, 2009

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A Latino cultural mecca in Brooklyn almost shut its doors, until the community fought to give its beloved marketplace a new lease on life. Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

In Williamsburg, the Moore Street Market is more than just a place to pick up Latin American food or get a haircut. It has been a gathering spot and cultural institution for more than 60 years, and is fondly known as "La Marqueta."

Now, after a two-year battle, the city has finally recognized the market's significance, and has abandoned plans to tear the building down, much to the relief of longtime vendors.

"I feel very great, very great. I don't sleep for two, three months when we fight the first time," said vendor Virgilio Rodriguez.

Elected officials joined the fight and helped put together a plan and some funding to save the market.

"Not giving up on La Marqueta, we were able to join forces and the community was very strong with their outcry to make sure [others] try to understand what a beacon this was," said Brooklyn Councilwoman Diana Reyna.

Back in 2007, the city said the Moore Street Market was consistently losing money and needed to be demolished to pave the way for affordable housing. Some vendors moved out, but others stayed.

The Tirado family have sold in the marketplace for 23 years and intend to stay.

"This is our bread and butter here, so it's important for us to have it open," said vendor Nicole Tirado.

The city is giving La Marqueta a five-year lease with another five-year option, and the not-for-profit Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation will now manage the operation.

"It was a great opportunity to help promote local businesses, to promote local entrepreneurship and to really show that small mom and pop businesses still have a place in the New York City economy," said Joan Bartolomeo of the Brooklyn EDC.

"This is what it's all about, about small businesses being able to succeed when they have the security of knowing that they have a place to call their business home," said Brooklyn-Manhattan Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

The funding will first go toward capital improvements to renovate the 1940s structure, including new doors and windows. Then, the basement will be turned into a state-of-the-art baking facility.

Residents predict with the city's new commitment, this market will be around for another seven decades.

"Our community in the past has made a major contribution to the City of New York. Our community now will stay here and we will have the community in the future. This is what La Marqueta represents," said community activist Luis Garden Acosta.

Designs for the new market are expected to be unveiled by the spring.