A band played live music.
There might not have been a more delicious corner than 117th Street and Frederick Douglas Boulevard this past Thurs., Oct. 11th.
As hundreds of residents milled about at the grand launch, they enjoyed rum-infused apple cider, sangria, artisanal breads and cheeses, and a wide variety of fare with Harlem flair – together with live music.
But this was not a new restaurant; instead, it was the transformation of an empty lot into what locals and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President are hoping becomes a durable tradition.
The Harlem Pop-Up Greenmarket, the city’s first nighttime greenmarket, was a collaborative effort among many, including the Offices of Borough President Scott Stringer and New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson; GrowNYC; the Frederick Douglas Boulevard Alliance; Greenmarkets NYC; the Harlem Treasure Chest Flea Market, local restaurants and upstate farm and orchard vendors.
“This is fantastic! It’s a win-win situation for everyone, for the residents, the restaurants and farmers,” said an ebullient Councilmember Robert Jackson.
Virginia Tumer, who lives nearby, was also excited.
She usually goes to the 125th Street market, but found the night market more convenient. “I think this is a good idea,” she said. “People who work can’t get to the farmers’ market during the day.”
Lia San Filippo is co-president of the Frederick Douglas Boulevard Alliance: “It’s about community; it’s about health.”
It was precisely that rationale that led organizers to put together the unique evening experience. While there are many greenmarkets around the city, their daylight hours make it hard for nine-to-fivers to get their fresh produce, artisanal baked goods and organic meats and cheeses that typify the market visit.
Also present were a number of local restaurants who proffered generous samples of many of their signature dishes.
Whether it was Harlem Tavern’s seafood gumbo or challah bread from Hot Bread Kitchen, it was not a time to stave off temptation.
Beth DiBiase and Kalyn Frame each live a block away from the pop-up market and enjoyed the opportunity to savor artisanal cheese under the moonlight.
“You can’t go wrong with cheese. Ever. It’s nice to be able to get my shopping done on at night instead of barely managing to squeeze it in during the day,” said DiBiase.
“It’s exciting that something like this is in the neighborhood,” added Frame.
Borough President Scott Stringer stopped by Lido Restaurant’s table.
“These are excellent, grade-A meatballs,” said Borough President Stringer, as he enjoyed the eatery’s samples.
“I’m glad he’s here to enjoy the event,” smiled Patrick Keefe, a Lido employee.
Lia San Filippo, owner of nearby Five and Diamond restaurant, was serving Asian-style and mango-chipotle buffalo wings and oxtail empanadas made of plantain-based dough.
The nighttime greenmarket offered vividly colorful harvest fruits and fresh flowers.
“The whole idea behind this was to show everyone that we really do need a market in central Harlem,” said San Filippo, who is also the co-president of the Frederick Douglas Boulevard Alliance. “The response has been overwhelming. It’s about community; it’s about health; it’s about exploration. People have been asking if this is going to be here every week. They really, really want it.”
President Stringer was pleased with the turnout.
“If tonight is any indication, I think there are going to be a lot of people asking us to figure out a way to make this a permanent fixture,” he said. “This is a great prototype for the future of greenmarkets.”
Sammy, of Breezy Hill Orchards, could only manage a few words as he worked to meet the demand of visiting customers who sorted through the orchard’s farm-fresh eggs, homemade pies and cider.
He was glad to comply with the requests.
“I see the response over here, and it’s amazing,” he smiled. “Everyone is telling me to please come back.”
To find the nearest greenmarket, please visit www.grownyc.org/ourmarkets or call 212.788.7900.