Downtown Express recently published an article about the faltering finances of the Seaport Museum New York, the historic component to South Street Seaport, a museum/shopping development opened in the 1980s.  The key phrase was:  “…the problem lies in the clash between the district’s commercial character and the museum’s historic presence.”

In response to the story, I wrote a Letter to the Editor.  They didn’t publish it; all their letters this week address the SoHo Business Improvement District (BID) concerns.  So, here’s the letter now on Groundswell – feedback welcome!

Keep Scrollin’

New Amsterdam Market - Summer 2010

Dear Editor:

Re: “Seaport Museum flounders, but hasn’t yet sunk,” (Vol. 20, Number 41, Feb. 23rd-March 1st)

My family has been in the West Village for over thirty years, and I remember skipping through the fanfare of South Street Seaport as a kid in the early 1980s.  Thinking back on the years that followed, my family returned to the area occasionally with out-of-town guests.  It was a way to spend time with visitors; however, as a local family, it did not have an enduring draw.  During the 1980s-1990s, I went to the Seaport five or six times.  In 1999, while on an escalator to the food court, two visitors summarized my feelings about it, as one said to the other, “I feel like we could be home in Minneapolis.”

I’m not writing to disparage Minneapolis.  On the contrary, I’m writing with great respect for the uniqueness of local communities everywhere.  In our shared city, I have recently returned to the Seaport regularly for one vibrant, new venue:  The New Amsterdam Market.  In the past 18 months, I have visited the market – and its host neighborhood – at least a dozen times.  It’s held in the same place where the Dutch started their markets 400 years ago.  Its vendors are food entrepreneurs from this region.  When I buy produce there from the Queens County Farm Museum, I support the only continuously working farm in New York City since the 1600s.  Now in my weekly grocery shopping, I experience the history of the Seaport and the city.

In this same issue of Downtown Express, there was a great article about the Taste of Tribeca, described as one of the “most anticipated” spring events downtown.  In the Letters to the Editor section, SoHo residents lamented that their neighborhood has become “a shopping mall for tourists.”  Isn’t it evident from these two topics alone that New York City is strongest when we celebrate our extraordinary neighborhoods?

I hope the Seaport Museum New York survives its difficulties.  This is not an “either/or” debate.  Cultural and historical venues always improve our city.  As for this New Yorker, I look forward to returning to the New Amsterdam Market this spring.  I hope the city understands it’s time to give the market a permanent home in the Seaport.  The locals would love that.

Nicole Reed

Lunchtime at the Market

Mr. Stokes -- GRILL A CHEF -- Will See You Now

Beautiful Packaging

I’m not usually one to swoon over local government, but the latest initiatives from the Offices of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer are awfully attractive.

In Honor of the Wintry Wind Gusts Today - Image by Crafternoon

This week Quinn introduced a program entitled, “FoodWorks New York.”  According to the press release, “Outside of the U.S. military, New York City is the largest institutional buyer of food in the country.  The Department of Education alone serves over 860,000 meals a day.”

It turns out that the Dept. of Ed. is setting up an increasing number of salad bars in the schools.  Great news — but all the romaine lettuce comes from Maryland and California.  They would buy the lettuce in New York state, however, there are no facilities for washing, cutting, and packing it in our region.  As a result, we’re carting this produce around the country before it gets to New York lunches.  The FoodWorks program aims to fix these broken links in the local supply chain.  In The Case of the Well-Traveled Romaine, the city has plenty of empty industrial space that could house the needed processing facility.

To learn more and read about the five goals of FoodWorks New York, please find the press release here.

The next object of my admiration is the The NYC Sustainable Food Charter created by the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.  It has been enthusiastically circulated in preparation for the NYC Food and Climate Summit tomorrow.  It means a lot to me to live in a place that sets these priorities for its people.  I’m looking forward to the gathering of the NYC tribes at the Summit.  The Food Charter has set our agenda.