By Sabina Mollot
Like most people who’ve lived in Stuyvesant Town long enough to remember the community’s annual, sprawling, outdoor flea markets, David Weiss and his wife Linda continued to miss it, over a decade after its being discontinued.
And, since they know many neighbors feel the same way, the couple decided to bring the event back the only way they could — online.
Three weeks ago, they launched a website called Zip Code Flea, on which anyone living in the zip codes of 10009 (Stuy Town) or 10010 (Peter Cooper, Waterside and Gramercy) can list items for sale, at a cost of $1 per listing.
Already, it’s seen a fair amount of activity with neighbors listing castaway goods that range from used children’s ice skates to Prada handbags to offers for services like tarot card readings. Users can also list items they’re giving away and a few freebies have made it onto the page already.
“We loved the flea market and everyone who remembers it says the same thing — how much they miss it,” said Weiss, a technology writer who runs a website called Sonic Scoop. “I kept saying, ‘we need to do something.’”
Having always been a reader of classified ads, he set up a site for classifieds, which Linda, an avid online shopper, helped design to make it look more like an online store. Initially, Weiss planned on calling the creation Stuy Town Flea. “Then I realized — these things are trademarked,” said Weiss. He then decided on Zip Code Flea, figuring that would also work if the service grows, as he hopes it will, beyond its hyper-local outreach.
“We really hope this can present people with an opportunity to be able to move their stuff,” said Weiss. “It also encourages people to reuse and recycle. Why get something new that has to be trucked in by UPS when there could be the same thing on sale in your building or next door?
“The other thing that’s really important,” he added, “is that people need money. This is a useful tool for raising a little cash.”
Currently, the most common items for sale are clothes for children and babies and the site is aimed at being as family-friendly as possible. (Residents hoping to make a few bucks off of their old Playboys will have to look elsewhere.) As for how buyers pay for the goods once an item is sold and how it gets delivered is up to the buyer and seller to work out. Zip Code Flea doesn’t have a function enabling online payments, with Weiss expecting that most people will opt for hand to hand transactions.
“Because of our local landmarks that exist, people are a lot more comfortable being able to say, ‘I’ll meet you at the fountain,’ for example,” said Weiss.
But of course, there’s always the likelihood that not everyone using the site will have neighborly intentions.
That said, Weiss said he hopes the hyper-local angle will make his site a safer alternative to the online listings giant Craigslist.
“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable using it because it casts too wide of a net,” said Weiss. “The inspiration (behind Zip Code Flea) is the Stuy Town flea market. It was such a great way for people to offload the things they didn’t need anymore and get something new and it allowed us to see each other in this concentrated, festive atmosphere. We’re sorry as anybody that it’s gone. It’s important to allow people to connect in this way.”