Aqueduct’s popular flea market to close after end of December

The permit allowing the flea market at Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park to be held there is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Connor Adams Sheets

Bargain hunters and vendors will say goodbye to the long-lived flea market at the Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park after the holiday season.

The announcement came as the track readied for the construction of a massive “racino” gambling facility by Resorts World New York, which has begun to recruit contractors and hopes to have hundreds of video lottery terminals in place there in less than six months.

The state Division of the Lottery said that continuing to use the track’s massive parking lots for the open-air market is not a sustainable option, and the market will be required to stop using the property after Dec. 31.

“Since the Aqueduct facility will be a construction site for several months, the Division of the Lottery determined that the continued presence of the flea market would raise safety concerns in addition to being incompatible with the future use of the property,” Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Genting, Resorts World’s parent company, said in a statement.

That decision will put hundreds of vendors — who hock wares from electronics to flags to books and household items — out of work and will leave many cash-strapped shoppers in a lurch.

Hasan Uddin has been selling toys at the flea market for years, and now the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, resident is concerned about how he will continue to make a living.

“Now that it is closed, I have to look for a different job or find a different market. This market’s very close to me, and when it closes I will have to go somewhere far away like New Jersey to find a different flea market. This market was big and a lot of people come,” he said. “I don’t know yet what I’m going to do, I have to think about it. It will be hard now.”

The flea market has been open for nearly three decades. The company that runs the bazaar, Plain & Fancy, could not be reached for comment.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said he and other elected officials are working with the borough president’s office to find a suitable alternative site for the market.

“I’m disappointed. These are jobs for people and I’m all about job creation. I’m hopeful that an alternative site can be found elsewhere in Queens,” he said.

State Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) said closing the flea market will be hard on residents.

“I am disappointed in the Genting, NYRA and Lottery Division decision to no longer house the flea market at Aqueduct,” Miller said in a statement. “Because the flea market has been around for over 25 years and provides over a thousand jobs, I am committed to working with my colleagues in government, the management of the flea market and our community to find a suitable location for this community institution.”

Dozens of vendors and their supporters pleaded last month that the market remain open during a protest at the track’s gates while the official groundbreaking on the racino project was underway inside its doors.

A spokesman for City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said he declined to comment on the issue.

Friedman said necessary steps have been taken to ensure the flea market does not remain open next year.

“We have informed [Plain & Fancy] that the contract permitting the operation of a flea market at Aqueduct will not be renewed after the contract’s Dec. 21, 2010, expiration date, although the market will be allowed to operate through the holidays until Dec. 31, 2010,” Friedman said in a statement. “Any future retail activity on the site would have to be approved and regulated by the Division of the Lottery.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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