Third time’s the charm for Stuyvesant Town flea

Playground 9 was bustling with vendors and shoppers at the Stuyvesant Town Flea Market this past Saturday. See Town & Village’s website for more photos of the event. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After two failed attempts earlier this month due to rain, the Stuy Town flea market finally had its day in the sun last weekend with hundreds of residents searching for hidden treasures from their neighbors.

The market was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 4, and was rescheduled to the following day because of the weather, although when it quickly became clear that May 5 would be a washout as well, management postponed the event to last Saturday with fingers crossed and another slew of possible rain dates. But the additional raindates proved unnecessary as the weather cooperated this past weekend, with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to high 70s.

General manager Rick Hayduk said that it seemed like a number of vendors who reserved a spot for the original date never alerted management that they wouldn’t be able to make the new date that was scheduled due to the rain, leaving the spot empty on the day of the market, but he said that the number of no-shows was still similar to that of last year.

Despite the absence of these vendors, Hayduk said that attendance this past Saturday looked almost twice as high as it has been in the past, although he noted that there was no official count to confirm numbers from this or previous years. Hayduk faulted the weather for this as well, noting that more residents than usual were outside on the Oval in the sunshine and high temperatures.

“I’ve never seen this many strollers and kids out for the market before,” Hayduk said.

New to the market this year was space in the Artist and Children’s Village at Playground 10 for children to sell or swap their toys with parental supervision. Local professional artists were also selling their pieces, including collagists John Fields and John Turck, as well as Ahuva Ellner and Segolene Prot, selling hand-sewn espadrilles.

Fields, a book collector, makes his collages on old book boards that he finds in the rare book room at The Strand and uses old newspapers and ticket stubs to create pictures and designs on the boards.

“Newspapers used to have misprints and blots of ink would get on them, and I like using the imperfections, although you don’t see that as much anymore,” he said. “The day after a rainstorm, you can find old ticket stubs outside places like Webster Hall after they’ve had a show and I call those pieces my roadkill series.”

Fields said that he and Turck had talked previously about exchanging some of their pieces and using them in their own work. Although Fields said that he has recently been seeing more success with his pieces, some of the collages he had for sale at the market were a number of years old and had some signs of wear. One piece, titled “Stuy Town Hawk,” has gotten faded over time.

“If nature changes them, then that’s part of the art,” Fields said of the blemishes. “The best use for them is to handle them.”

Stuy Town resident John Turck’s collages

The espadrilles that Segolene Prot was selling at the market were produced by her company Sunea, which she founded with fellow Stuy Town resident Faten Ard. Prot and Ard launched their company on March 8 of last year, deciding specifically on that date because it was International Women’s Day, which was significant for the founders running a women-owned business and one that aims to empower women.

The shoes are hand-sewn by women in Tunisia, where Prot said there are communities in which women can’t work outside their homes. The women making the shoes are able to pick up the materials elsewhere and bring them back so they can make the shoes in their house.

“Being from France and my business partner being from Tunisia, we love espadrilles, and we were looking for a particular way to give back to the community,” Prot said.

Segolene Prot, a co-founder of Sunea, talking with a customer

Stuyvesant Town resident Ahuva Ellner, a retired nurse, had an eye-catching table of colorful and bejeweled handcrafted items specially made for young girls. Ellner also makes personalized hats, which she said is geared towards girls who have less common names.

“It’s nice for them if they can’t ever find anything with their name on it,” she said. “I could never find anything with my name on it and people have a lot of unusual names now.”

Ahuva Ellner, a retired nurse, with one of her personalized hats

When Stuy Town residents Paul Ugactz and his wife Doreen moved into the neighborhood more than 30 years ago, they hadn’t acquired enough trinkets to have their own table at the flea market when it was still around then, so it was more fun just to shop. Since their earlier days in the neighborhood, the couple has since acquired collections that Ugactz said now need paring down.

“I’m trying to trim down the herd and take back a room,” he said of the guitars he had for sale. By late afternoon, Ugactz had been able to unload a mandolin and some electric guitar parts along with some household items, but other items of interest he still had for sale included prototypes of Oscar, Grammy and American Music Award statues, which Ugactz said he acquired through “a lot of luck” and are movie props that are exact replicas.

Paul Ugactz and his prototype Oscar, along with exact replica AMA and Grammy awards

Karen Butler, a 25-year Stuy Town resident, said that jewelry, ceramics and cups were selling well at her table. Butler remembered the flea market when it was originally held and echoed the nostalgia for the event as a sprawling market that residents missed when it was gone.

“It’s too bad that they did away with it because it was larger then, and it went around the outside on 20th Street, too,” she said. “But everyone is really glad it came back. It’s a nice community event. People have a good time.”

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