After a contentious week in the Greenpoint community, the proposed Brooklyn Night Bazaar has been put on hold. The 100,000 square foot market was to feature over 100 booths full of local merchandise, a beer and wine garden, food court and stage for music. Located on the waterfront at 27 West Street, it would have run June 3rd through September from 5 pm to 2 am every Friday and Saturday night.
The Brooklyn Night Bazaar was the brainchild of Aaron Broudo, a corporate lawyer by day who raised over $8,000 on Kickstarter for the project. Broudo got his inspiration from a similar market in Richmond, British Columbia that he visited growing up and his travels throughout Southeast Asia. “I thought it’d be fun,” says Broudo of his project. “[It’d be] a great way to bring out the amazingly creative people that live here in New York.”
With no experience in this line of work, Broudo’s plan, which many feared would draw 5,000-7,000 people into the neighborhood nightly, inspired mass criticism from residents who live in the historic district. While no homes sit directly adjacent to the site, residences across West Street would have been affected by the traffic, noise and litter. Additionally, many of the streets leading to the site are almost exclusively filled with houses and apartments.
In an attempt to ease some of the community’s concerns, Broudo organized a meeting at the lot on March 26th. While well-intentioned, the meeting quickly turned hostile. “There are families here,” shouted one community member. “It’s not just about partying.”
Broudo maintained a calm demeanor throughout the meeting though he seemed unprepared for the onslaught of questioning. He presented no clear budget for security and cleanup or plan for implementing these measures. He also admitted to not yet signing the lease with the site’s owners, B & H Photo. As the meeting progressed, the crowd of about 20 became more outraged. One man warned: “We can organize and make your life miserable.”
While it seemed that everyone there was staunchly opposed to the Bazaar, there were some supporters who didn’t get the chance to speak publicly. Catherine, who declined to give out her last name, has lived on West Street for the past six months and disagreed with many at the meeting. “I’m excited; I think it’d be a nice event,” she told me. In reference to the hostility, Catherine pointed to pre-existing issues in the neighborhood. “I think there’s already a lot of tension in the area because it’s changing,” she offered.
Joel Oppenheimer, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years, was also supportive of the event, just not on the large scale that Broudo envisioned. He pointed to one of the vacant warehouses surrounding the lot and quipped, “What do you think is going to happen to those buildings?” To Oppenheimer, it’s just a matter of time before the area is transformed, night market or not.
In order to foster a more collaborative and constructive dialogue, the Greenpoint Business Alliance (GBA) mediated a discussion (with Broudo purposefully not in attendance) at the bar Red Star on the 28th. The GBA did not take a stand on the issue, but presented up-to-date facts on the project, sent to them by Broudo right before the meeting.
In an attempt to accommodate the community, Broudo made some changes to his proposal. Bands would stop playing at 10 pm, there would be no alcohol served past 11:45 pm and doors would close at 12:45 am. He also proposed police barricades on Oak and Calyer in addition to cleaning crews on West, Calyer, Quay, Oak, Noble and Franklin.
Many community members claimed Broudo hadn’t made significant progress on any of these fronts. Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA) board member Adam Perlmutter felt that Broudo’s lack of experience was of utmost concern. “They do not have the plans in place to mitigate the effects,” he said. “We are faced with a credibility gap with these people.” In the past, OSA was responsible for 60 McCarren Park Pool events and this summer will throw concerts on the Williamsburg waterfront. Proceeds from these concerts will go to parks in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area.
Just four days after the initial meeting, Broudo halted plans to go through with the Bazaar this summer. On Wednesday, Councilmember Stephen Levin released a statement announcing that it was over. “The enormous scale of the proposal and the lack of mitigation efforts made it impossible for local residents to support [the venture],” he said. “It is to Mr. Broudo’s credit that he recognized the legitimacy of these concerns and has decided not to attempt to create an event that would be viewed negatively by the Greenpoint community.”
When asked what made him throw in the towel, Broudo says that the negative community reaction affected the logistics of the project. “Time was running out; all my permits were in process, but considering the amount of community opposition it just seemed like it’d be a very hard sell to get through the community board.”
In retrospect, Broudo admits that he may have done a couple of things differently. “I would have solicited more feedback from the community and formed partnerships with community groups before I laid out plans for the Bazaar,” he said. Keeping his mistakes in mind, Broudo plans to move ahead in summer 2012 and will still consider 27 West among other locations in Brooklyn. He hasn’t given up hope that New Yorkers are ready for his night bazaar. “Irrespective of the uproar in Greenpoint, I’ve received a lot of amazing feedback,” he said. “I still think the idea is sound just maybe not exactly in the form that I first purposed it.”