“Renegade Market: Robert LaValva and the battle for the New Amsterdam Market” by Skyler Reid
Robert LaValva is campaigning to keep the New Amsterdam Market up and running at its current site by the old Fulton Fish Market. The site is slated for residential development, but LaValva is hoping for a change with the upcoming elections.
LaValva: When you visit a real established, vibrant public market in a city you come away with a sense of having seen the soul of that city, or the heart of that city. And I think New York could very much use a place like that.
LaValva: So the thought was quite obvious. Here you have this historic empty market, owned by the public, owned by the city, and here you have this nascent food movement with many entrepreneurs and passionate people.
SOT: How’re things?
SOT: Good, good. Slowly, slowly but surely. Steady growth, that’s the goal. How are you?
LaValva: Since 2007 we have been holding a market so it’s not just an idea, it’s an actual thing, that exists
Save Our Seaport speaker: He has inspired all of this with his resourcefulness dedication and vision and a lot of really good food. A speaker at our first rally, a long time supporter of SOS, Mister Robert LaValva
LaValva: Thank you
LaValva: The initial people who came to the market were people interested in food, who were excited about this kind of market growing in New York.
SOT: Do you want a receipt sent to you or no?
LaValva: But then after we established a weekly presence at that location, we then of course began to draw neighborhood residents.
LaValva: I was not surprised when I learned that the fish market was slated as a real estate development site, partially because there had been talk of this for decades.
LaValva: Some people will tell you that it is dangerous to speak of vision, because this implies a detachment from the practical. Nothing could be further from the truth, because everything meaningful, everything worthwhile, everything uplifted has always been founded on a vision. It is entirely appropriate for all of us as residents of this city to say enough is enough.
LaValva: I think it’s been important to use this growing organization, this growing institution, as a standard-bearer for how that public space could be used, because if we didn’t fight for its preservation nobody else would have.
While city officials initially showed support of the project, it quickly became clear that there were obstacles in the way of establishing a permanent market site. LaValva eventually discovered that the market site was being slated for real estate development: potentially another stack of high cost high-rise apartments in downtown Manhattan.
LaValva says that the market provides an essential function to the neighborhood: it’s injecting new breath into a neighborhood that has been largely overdeveloped with large, characterless malls and shops. The market has already brought new energy to the neighborhood, and provided a springboard for many aspiring entrepreneurs.
With support from Save Our Seaport and other neighborhood organizations, LaValva has been campaigning to continue operating the New Amsterdam Market at its current location. With the upcoming New York City elections, LaValva hopes that a new government might mean a sea change for the fate of his little market by the sea.