By Sabina Mollot
On Saturday, the second flea market to take place after a hiatus of about 15 years took place in Stuyvesant Town under a mostly sunny and warm sky.
Around 530 vendors were selling their wares, a number that was slightly higher than last year’s. This time vendors had tables inside three playgrounds, instead of lining the Oval out to the loop roads. Vendors who spoke with Town & Village seemed to have mixed feelings about this, though all were nonetheless glad to see the flea market tradition living on.
At Playground 9, Marilyn Ray, who was stationed near an entrance, seemed happy with the arrangement as her table was a popular stop for those looking for vintage prints and ephemera. Asked how business was going, she answered, “Pretty good. It’s the prints that are selling better than anything else.”
Alicia Zanelli, a longtime resident selling some Peruvian-made items, was less impressed about how packed Playground 9 was with sellers. “Everyone’s getting squeezed,” she said. “We have so many beautiful areas. Open them up!”
Waltrine Cooke, another longtime resident selling books as well as fair trade jewelry handmade in Kenya, said she hadn’t yet had a chance to compare this year’s setup with the previous year’s. But, she said, “I’m glad it’s back after so much of an absence. It’s nice to be out with neighbors.”
On the playground placement, neighboring vendor Carolyn Laws-Parker said, “I think it’s fine,” as she displayed some glasses and steins. “I’ve been doing it for years. You get to see people you haven’t seen in a while. You’re not really making a killing, but that’s not the idea.”
Vendors also said they were grateful for the weather, which kept the foot traffic steady.
While strolling around the Oval, Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk said there were hardly any no-show vendors, but where there were empty spots, there didn’t appear to be any obvious grave robbing by would-be sellers. “They may have spread out,” he observed of some vendors. As for the new, more contained market space, he added that it seemed to be working out well from a customer perspective. “People like that they can hit it, hit and hit it.”
Meanwhile, “Civic Row” was also a big hit, he said, referring to the line of civic organizations that had tables outside Playground 10. Those included the League of Women Voters, a mom meet-up group, the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association and a few others.
One was the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, where president Susan Steinberg said neighbors tended to become interested in the organization when she would mention that one of the things it does is fight major capital improvements as well as to improve quality of life issues. “Like when maintenance people used to come barging in. They’re not allowed to do that anymore,” she pointed out.
Another organization there was Cauz for Pawz, the nonprofit thrift shop on First Avenue where proceeds go to benefit animals. Due to the flea market’s new, strict rules barring the sale of clothes and shoes, store employees could only offer information and not their merchandise. But, employee Rebecca Dumais noticed, getting the word out about the store’s mission still seemed to be proving helpful.
“Some people think we sell animal clothing, so I say, ‘No we sell people clothing to benefit animals,’” Dumais said.
Inside Playground 11, one family manning a booth close to Avenue C, appeared happy about the resurrected community tradition. Jill Pratzon, there with her husband Jim and son Alex, said that ideally they’d sell all the stuff they bought at last year’s flea.
“That would be great,” she said, while gesturing to an electronic drum set Alex bought that he never uses. “Could we have one of these every month?”
Alex however seemed to be having better luck selling his video games, consoles and various gadgets for a few bucks each.
“Welcome to the gaming corner,” he would cheerfully announce to various passersby. He added that business was pretty good. “I’ve gotten rid of at least a couple of things.”
Jim, a teacher, added that he was just grateful to be away from his classroom. “I’m enjoying a beautiful day in the sun,” he said.
Inside Playground 10, around 40 artists and artisan had tables in a section dubbed “Artist Village.” One music teacher was offering free mini-lessons while the others sold items ranging from paintings to jewelry to dolls to decorative coasters.
A few participants included Laurel Hambright, who was selling her homemade soaps, scrubs and bath bombs; John “Butch” Purcell, who was selling paintings that were part of a deceased uncle’s collection, and Alice Cohen, who was selling necklaces with pendants fashioned out of magazine paper.
By the afternoon, she and others had shed their jackets as the temperatures reached the high sixties. “We froze in the morning,” she recalled, while joking, “We suffer for our art.”
For vendors who couldn’t sell everything on their tables by the time the event ended but also didn’t feel like schlepping their things back up to their apartments, Goodwill accepted donations at a truck parked nearby. There was also electronics recycling and a performance by Irish step dancers.