The Trinity Real Estate-owned lot at Duarte Square that is slated to get a Smorgasbord outdoor market in August. Photo by Eric Demby
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The operators of Smorgasburg, the popular Brooklyn outdoor food market, plan to start up a version of it in Duarte Square, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave., this summer.
The outdoor-food outfit has signed a two-year lease for the space with Trinity Real Estate. The plan is for it to operate seven days a week, starting early this August.
They are seeking a full liquor license, and will make a presentation to the Community Board 2 State Liquor Authority Committee on Thurs., April 13, at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 151 Sullivan St., lower hall. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
Jonathan Butler — who co-founded Smorgasburg along with Eric Demby — said it won’t be as big an affair as some are fearing. Yes, it will be seven days a week, but the weekdays won’t be as big a production, he said.
“Really, we’re talking about four or five food trucks during the weekdays,” he said. “On the weekends, we’ll probably have another 30 or 40 market vendors that pop up. But it’s really not on the scale of our Brooklyn markets.
“There’s a desire for more food in that neighborhood,” he added. “The Hudson Square BID did a study two years ago that found that.”
He was referring to the Hudson Square Connection business improvement district.
Food trucks actually will be a first for Smorgasburg, though Trinity has had them in the Duarte Square lot before. The trucks will have electrical hookups, Butler noted.
The food trucks, seating and a 20-foot-long bar located inside a shipping container will be concentrated in the northern portion of the square, along Grand St. There will also be some shade structures and pavers to create a patio.
Meanwhile, on weekends, the southern part of the square will be filled with other food vendors, plus flea-market vendors. Butler and Demby are also the founders of Brooklyn Flea.
The weekend vendors will each have a 10-foot-by-10-foot tent with a table out in front. Those vendors typically pay Smorgasburg $250 to $300 a day.
On a questionnaire for C.B. 2 that liquor-license applicants fill out, Butler wrote that Smorgasburg’s operating hours at the Hudson Square location would be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday.
The plan, as described on the questionnaire, is described as “Highly curated outdoor market with food and shopping, plus occasional family-friendly programming and special events.”
In the “overall seating information” section, 20 tables with 120 seats are listed. “Live” and “amplified” music are checked, as well as “iPod / CD’s.”
Asked about emissions from the trucks’ cooking operation, Butler said it would be minimal.
“I don’t think four food trucks will generate any negative effects,” he told The Villager.
“Occasional special events, such as corporate functions, private parties and community programming will also occur at the site,” another response on the questionnaire reads.
On the questionnaire, in the spot where it asks for the number of bars, Butler filled in “2.” However, he told The Villager that there will only be one bar, while a second shipping container at the site will be used “mostly for cold storage and dishwashing.”
According to its Web site, Smorgasburg is America’s largest weekly open-air food market, attracting 20,000 to 30,000 people to Brooklyn each week. It has two locations in that borough: on the waterfront in Williamsburg at Kent Ave. on Saturdays and in Prospect Park on Sundays.
Smorgasburg started in 2011 as an offshoot of Brooklyn Flea, which started in 2008. There is even a Los Angeles Smorgasburg now, as well as one in Kingston, N.Y.
They also operate Berg’n, a beer and food hall in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and ran a pop-up food hall / beer garden in the South St. Seaport from 2013 to 2016.
The Kent Ave. / Williamsburg market’s hours are from 11 a.m. to only 6 p.m. Despite the answer on the questionnaire, Butler said he doubted the Duarte Square Smorgasburg would really run as late as 11 p.m. or midnight.
“I don’t think it’s going to go to 12,” he said. “We have been in the Seaport the last three years. It’s a really nice after-work scene — after 6 p.m., go have a couple of beers and some food — but after 9 it’s kind of dead.”
A floor plan of the Duarte Square Smorgasburg. The five gray rectangular boxes at top and at left represent food trucks. The two dark rectangles at right are shipping containers. Other markings represent tables, “shade structures” — likely large umbrellas — and a patio covered with pavers. There will also be landscaping. The market apparently won’t use the part of the lot east of Sullivan St., which is basically an access road at this spot that is not open to car traffic.
The Brooklyn locations are far larger, with about 100 vendors each day.
“It might not even be called Smorgasburg,” Butler noted of the Duarte Square location. “I hesitate to use the word ‘Smorgasburg’ because it implies a gazillion vendors.”
Asked how many people they anticipate the market would draw on a daily basis, Butler said he really could not predict that, and there is no telling at this point if the location will even be a hit.
As for the Brooklyn Flea aspect, Butler said it would include things like vintage clothing and handmade designs.
Obviously, the Kent Ave. market has had a big impact on that neighborhood.
“When we started Smorgasburg in 2011 on Kent Ave., no one was going over there,” he noted.
Similarly, he said of Duarte Square, “Part of the idea is to activate that part of Canal St. — place-making. That particular part of Canal St. could use some sort of Jane Jacobs-style place-making.”
As for entertainment, Butler said it won’t be rock music.
“No, no, no, this is not a rock concert venue or a rock club,” he stressed. “We’ll sometimes have private events or a talk or presentation on culture or politics. We have family-friendly events.”
Previously, Butler founded Brownstoner, the popular Brooklyn real estate blog, before launching Brooklyn Flea with Demby in 2008.
The main residential building near the location is 80 Varick St. Darlene Lutz, a fine-art adviser who lives there, is a frequent critic of Trinity Real Estate’s ongoing leasing of the space for outdoor events. Trinity’s stated long-term plan for the block is to build a residential tower, with a new public elementary school for the city in its base. But that plan, clearly, has yet to get off the ground.
Previously, in February 2015 Trinity notably leased the space for Nike Zoom, a basketball-and-sneaker themed extravaganza during N.B.A. All-Star Week. Though not a commercial use, Occupy Wall Street also hoped to take over the space after it was evicted from Zuccotti Park back in 2011, but Trinity said the lot wasn’t suitable for an encampment.
Lutz admitted that her building is the source of 12 letters in support for Smorgasburg, but she figures those are from commercial tenants whose employees would likely enjoy the open-air market.
“Seating for 120 — this is an outdoor restaurant,” she warned. “No farmers’ market operates seven days a week.
“All the young tech employees around here will love it. It’s great if you can enjoy it, have a few drinks, and then go back to your home in another neighborhood.
“We’re talking over 20,000 square feet of lot, which is gravel and a cyclone fence — no trees to block the sound, and residential apartments just 30 feet away. Will my air conditioner become a grease trap for people cooking hamburgers?”
Lutz spoke to a lobbyist who is pushing the plan and asked him how Smorgasburg would operate in the winter.
“He said they’re going to bring in shipping containers,” she said.
“The small brick-and-mortar businesses in this area will suffer,” she predicted.
More to the point, she said, she’s impatient for Trinity to start building its residential tower there — even though that obviously would be noisy and disruptive.
“The school in that building was the sweetener for the rezoning,” she noted.
Five years ago, Trinity pushed through a rezoning for the formerly manufacturing-zoned area to allow residential use.
Carter Booth, the C.B. 2 S.L.A. Committee co-chairperson who will lead the April 13 meeting, said Smorgasburg is definitely something new for the board. He said that, as usual, he didn’t want to comment before the public hearing, which would be a chance to flesh out the details of the plan and address questions.
Ellen Baer, president and C.E.O. of the Hudson Square Connection BID, referred questions about the Smorgasboard plan to John Franqui, Trinity Real Estate’s senior vice president of real estate business and operations. (The BID is essentially a creation of Trinity, which is by far the Hudson Square area’s biggest property owner.) Franqui did not respond to a request for comment by press time.