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Let There Be Lettuce
By Pamela Bomser Stern

They arrive before dawn every Wednesday traveling from distant, exotic locations known only as "the country" or "up-state." Their colorful, creative vans and trucks are laden with magnificent produce and flowers. Neither driving rain, snowfalls nor even the occasional Elvis sighting stops them. While most Turtle Bay residents are sleeping the proprietors of the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Green Market (47th Street and Second Avenue) meticulously work together to craft stalls of bountiful fruits, vegetables and flowers. The neighborhood residents awaken to find beneath their windows a breathtaking collection of pointy asparagus, white, purple and even chocolate-colored eggplants; also gooseberries, okra, heirloom varieties of tomatoes, striped beets, spectacular herbs, and potatoes so glorious that even the most faithful Atkins followers have fallen "off the wagon" at just the mere sight of these seductive carbs. Flowers that dazzle us with their loveliness gracefully line the plaza, enticing shoppers with their intoxicating fragrances. Then, of course, there are the gloriously lush seasonal fruits beckoning to all that pass by. The bakery products are so captivating that Weight Watchers has issued a restraining order against the market's breads, cakes, cookies and bread pudding. Even the innocent rugelach is now at risk.

It all started in 1976 when Farmer's Markets were introduced to New York City by an architect and planner, Barry Benepe, and co-founder, Bob Lewis. Benepe had a vision of upstate farmers selling directly to the urban consumer while cutting out the middleman. With an $800 grant from the America the Beautiful Fund, along with direction from the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs of NYC, Elinor Guggenheimer, and the Council on the Environment of New York City signed on to sponsor a farmer's market program. And so, in July, 1976, seven upstate farmers sold their freshly farmed produce in a city-owned lot on Second Avenue and 59th Street. Thus began a New York City association that at present serves 250,000 people per week between May and December.

These talented, hard-working people have become our friends and integrated themselves into our community with their commitment to provide outstanding produce, and service with a smile. But most of all they have made Wednesday a festive and special day of the week at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for the Turtle Bay neighborhood.

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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

224 East 47th Street, New York City 10017
(212) 751-5465
Fax (212) 751-4941

 

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