This week, the massive Flea Market that has operated in the north parking lot of the Aqueduct Racetrack for the past thirty years closed for the season, with considerable doubt as to whether or where it will re-open. Over decades, the market has become a trusted source of a wide range of affordable goods for bargain hunters from across eastern Brooklyn and Queens, and many from even further afield. The New York Times has been covering the appeals of the vendors — many of whom are recent immigrants to the US from the Caribbean, Central America, South Asia and East Asia — to maintain or relocate the vibrant bazaar as the racetrack undergoes a major makeover into a “racino”: filled with thousands of slot machines and upscale hotels and restaurants. On the market’s final Sunday, I made sure to stop by to peruse the wind-up toys and “brand-name” perfumes and to observe the scene.
As we head into 2011, the Omnibus will be reviving our field trip suggestions, leading into a fun season of meet-ups and group explorations of the city in the spring and summer. But the Flea Market is one fascinating urban destination that won’t be around in the new year. We’ll be following this story to see if the vendors are successful in finding a new location, and what the urban design challenges and opportunities for any such location might be. In the meantime, listen to a one-minute excerpt of the market’s rich combination of sounds in the clip below: