La Marqueta Returns!
East Harlem has always bred both cultural pioneers and business innovators.
It was here that Latino immigrants first settled in New York City, opening bodegas and botánicas that left an indelible mark on American culture. It was here that Salsa music and Latin Jazz were created, given life, and shared throughout the Americas as a staple of “El Barrio.” It’s here that La Marqueta, upper Manhattan’s home for new businesses, food, and cultural and community entrepreneurs is being reinvigorated today.
As far back as the early 1900s, the area under today’s Metro-North Harlem line was an informal gathering spot for area merchants. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia gave the site the city’s official endorsement in 1936, and ‘La Marqueta’ was born. The location, Park Avenue between 111th and 119th streets, became the unofficial capital of Spanish Harlem, nurturing the likes of Tito Puente and becoming home to local community events and more than 500 vendors who sold specialty foods and clothing.
In the following decades, however, La Marqueta fell into disrepair. Suburbanization and urban renewal projects altered the streetscape and displaced thousands of East Harlem’s residents. The market's four main buildings were burned or razed and the fifth was boarded up. The recent building explosion at 116th street shocked both the community and the city, and efforts to rejuvenate the area repeatedly came up short.
But over the last few years, NYCEDC has partnered with Hot Bread Kitchen—which helps immigrant women become economically independent by training them to bake and sell bread—to develop a food incubator for start-up businesses.
In addition to the longstanding food vendors that have provided the neighborhood with produce, dried goods and desserts, NYCEDC partnered with Hot Bread Kitchen in 2010—which helps immigrant women become economically independent by training them to bake and sell bread—to develop a food incubator for start-up businesses.
More recently, three other manufacturers have received space to produce food in Building Three located at 114th Street. And starting this summer, the East Harlem community, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Acacia Network, and the State of New York started working with NYCEDC to restore the market to bring it back to its former vitality.
Speaker Mark-Viverito has devoted $3 million of NYC Council funds towards an NYCEDC-managed renovation of the retail portion of La Marqueta, which will allow small local businesses to enter the market without the usual barriers. A grant from New York State has allowed GrowNYC, a greenmarket that is working to end the lack of fresh produce available in East Harlem, to move in. And NYCEDC is currently accepting applications from vendors that want to be a part of this historic reemergence that provides economic opportunity to New Yorkers and draws on the strength of local partners.
Meanwhile, weekly salsa and movie nights at La Marqueta are infusing the neighborhood’s rhythm into the market. La Marqueta Retoña brings new cultural programming, curated by Acacia, to La Placita, or ‘little plaza,’ on 115th Street. Weekly activities hosted here are replete with picnic tables and soon WiFi. Check the La Marqueta Retoña website each week for updates of new event and activity listings!
La Marqueta was once the center of Spanish Harlem: a landmark to the people and history of one of New York’s most celebrated neighborhoods. Come check out the events, people, and entrepreneurs that promise to make La Marqueta a cultural capital of El Barrio once again!
Celebrate the rebirth of this landmark cultural institution; visit La Marqueta Retoña for more information.