14. Establish a city-wide permit and technical assistance program for retail experiential markets.

Pop-up or temporary retail experiential markets are rapidly growing and increasingly crucial ways to activate public spaces in commercial districts. They enable microbusinesses and local entrepreneurs to test markets in low-cost and tactical ways, while also exposing consumers to new products and services that often complement offerings in brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Currently, these types of retail experiential markets are most commonly found in privately-owned storefronts in New York City, where the use and design of space is far more flexible (at the discretion of property owners) and is permissible with general vendor license (DCWP) and/or temporary food service establishment permits (DOHMH).

Bringing these market concepts out into the public realm, however, is incredibly challenging. Market operators across the city who have tested these types of activations in City parks or plazas expressed the significant costs and hurdles that need to be overcome. In particular, the existing regulatory framework does not acknowledge retail experimental markets. For example, existing Farmers Market permits restrict the items that can be sold and SAPO Street Fair and Event permits restrict the duration and length of markets (e.g. single day/single block).

Furthermore, in plazas, which are typically prime locations for such retail experiential markets due to available power hookups, utilities, and the sizes of the spaces, the City decouples maintenance agreements with community organizations from their ability to generate revenue from the plaza. Maintenance partners, by agreement with the City, cannot host their own events or use the space for a temporary business (i.e. 29 day concession).

︎ A User Experience
︎ B Long-Term Coordination
︎ C Inclusive Design
︎ D Collaboration and Communication
︎ E Support commerce and entrepreneurship

︎ Process / Regulatory Framework
︎ Funding
︎ Technical Assistance
“Why can’t we do a food market, cultural happening that goes in all five boroughs? It could celebrate local commerce, bring some of globality into those locations, local artists with that community. We need to create a unified organization: one social media, like Nycgo, or Summerstage. Creating that system allows you to get sponsorship, unified info, unify the expenses, consistency, find employees.”
Marco Shalma, Bronx Night Market

HOW TO IMPLEMENT In order to acknowledge that retail experiential markets are core components of public realm activations, the City should establish a new kind of market permit that may be issued on a short-term and/or long-term basis (i.e. 30 days, 90 days, 120 days, annual), with opportunity to renew easily. The permit should allow for flexible site-planning on plazas (and other public spaces) to be managed by a community-based organization.

This new permit should be supplemented by financial and technical resources that support market operators and managers, and that incubate local microbusinesses (including other recommendations in this brief: see “Establish a public realm activation grant/funding resource” and see “Provide pre-approved list of on-call technical assistance providers and equipment/furniture vendors”) .

“Supporting small biz doesn’t just end at providing them a temporary space to do commerce. Educate them, support them from the ground up. Work with them to get compliance. Talk to them to get their story, pitch to the media. Brief them for how to be on TV. We’re building a community of vendors.”
Marco Shalma, Bronx Night Market

︎ MASC Hospitality

Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  


City of New York, NY

Farmers markets are currently permitted to operate on City properties through a unique permit issued by SAPO: the “Farmers Market Permit”, which allows a nonprofit organization (which, in most cases, is operated by GreenMarket - a program of GrowNYC - a privately funded nonprofit organization) to hold an open-air market on the City’s sidewalks. Farmers markets primarily feature vendors with products grown, raised, caught or baked by local farmers, fishers and bakers.

The program (including the permit application, and financial and technical assistance) should be co-administered by the Department of Small Business Services (lead for financial and technical assistance) and partners: SAPO, the DOT, the Department of Health, and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.

51% of all business owners predict their business will not survive 12 months — more than twice the 20% first-year failure rate among new businesses in prior years. This rate is even higher among minority business owners: 73% of Black entrepreneurs predict their business may fail within the year and 71% of Asian American and Pacific Islander business owners are likewise concerned. As such, it is important for us to make new low-cost and highly visible spaces (at public space short-term/temporary retail experiential markets) available for microbusinesses and entrepreneurs to promote and sell products and services.

︎ Nur Asri

Shoppers at the Bowling Green Farmers Market.