Sept. 14, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
The operators of the LIC Flea and Food Market are looking to open a new market in Astoria next summer.
Josh Schneps, who runs the flea and food enterprise, spoke to Community Board 1’s Parks and Recreation committee meeting about opening up shop next summer in Chappetto Square, on the corner of Hoyt Avenue and 21st Street.
Schneps pointed to his past successful markets in Long Island City and at Kaufman Astoria Studios, as well as his own personal business interests, as encouraging reasons to explore a more regular market in Astoria.
He said that with the cost of land increasing and availability decreasing, moving to an underutilized park made sense, and allowed the opportunity to bring a major attraction to the neighborhood. “Everything we do is under the focus of being able to do something positive for the community,” he said.
Speaking on the success of LIC Flea and Food, which he started four years ago, Schneps explained that it has become a “major attraction for the local community and a destination for those outside.” He added that it allows local entrepreneurs space to sell their goods if they cannot afford storefronts.
The Community Board committee members expressed concerns about the proposed for-profit market taking away public space, though Schneps said that Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski suggested Chappetto Square because it is underutilized.
That particular point was debated, as several community board members noted that the park is often used for pick-up volleyball games and other uses, and the proposed market would run during prime park hours, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
In speaking to the Parks Department, Schneps said that he would file for a temporary use permit and community board members were clear that they would want to reevaluate the market each time he had to reapply for the permit to ensure it was good for the community.
“I can’t speak for the whole board, but my personal feeling is that we need to reach out to the community before voting and making a decision,” said CB1 Parks committee chair Richard Khuzami.
Schneps said he was still testing the waters in Astoria and figuring out his business plan for next year. When the Community Board asked him if he would be running the markets in LIC, Astoria, and at Kaufman Studios all at once, he said that while no plans are finalized, the Astoria market could “potentially” replace the LIC market.
The Community Board ended the discussion on an open ended note, asking that Schneps return with a revised plan outlining exactly what he would do to benefit the community in return for hosting the market.
The board said it would like to see him take active steps to improve the park, with plantings, benches, and tables, while also hosting free community events, and exploring the possibility of offering discounted booths to local businesses.
The Board also spoke of leafleting around the community to see if residents want the market, and possibly running a trial period for the market next summer.
“I don’t want to be in the position where the community doesn’t want me,” Schneps said, and explained that the LIC community has embraced the Flea and Food market, and he hopes the Astoria community will do the same, and he plans to make the effort to give back to the community.