Queens Night Market to return to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in April

Although regulatory guidance is being updated frequently, the Queens Night Market expects to start its season operating at a reduced capacity in accordance with the state’s most recent advisory for open-air markets in June. (Photo by Sarah Choi)

After canceling events last year due to COVID-19, the Queens Night Market is planning to return for its sixth season at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 

The outdoor market, located on the grounds of the New York Hall of Science, is scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 17, and will run through Oct. 30. 

“Despite the current, tragic surge in pandemic numbers, we’re optimistic we’ll be able to open back up this year, and cautiously hopeful – without being delusional – that it’ll be on schedule in mid-April if the vaccine rollout becomes expedient and efficient,” said John Wang, founder of the event. “I know we’re just a tiny speck in the cultural and economic landscape of NYC, but hopefully the reopening of the Queens Night Market can come to represent a collective sigh of relief or even some small celebration of solidarity among the remarkably diverse lives and communities that make up this city.”

Given the focus on affordability and the general $5 price cap on food that has become a hallmark of the event, any capacity restrictions would be devastating to vendor profitability, which critically depends on volume instead of margin, according to Wang.

The event ultimately decided it was better to cancel last season entirely than risk public health and risk putting vendors in a financially unsustainable position.

The Queens Night Market stayed busy during the 2020 off-year by spearheading numerous pro-bono projects, including “Fuel the Frontlines,” which provided nearly 15,000 meals to healthcare workers in Queens; Queens Gets Counted!, a borough-wide census drive with over 50 local partner organizations; a Charity Fundraiser for the Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park; and its OUTPOST at Rockefeller Center, which provided a low-risk, low-cost point of sale for six vendors during the fall. 

Additionally, Wang sits on the Steering Committee for NYC & Company’s Tourism Recovery Coalition and serves as chair of the Food & Economic Security Committee of the Elmhurst-Corona Recovery Collaborative.

When the Queens Night Market does reopen, the $5 price cap on all food items will remain in place, with a limited number of $6 exceptions.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy to maintain the unique price caps on food with so many rising costs over the years. But our mission to be NYC’s most affordable, accessible and diverse community event hasn’t changed, and the affordability aspect might be more important than ever as New York deals with the pandemic’s economic fallout for years to come,” Wang said. 

Since it debuted in 2015, the Queens Night Market has helped launch 300 brand-new businesses in New York and represented 90 countries through its vendors and their food. Last year full refunds were issued to vendors slated to participate in the canceled season.

The Queens Night Market has officially opened vendor applications for its 2021 season and has received over 100 applications thus far. 

The curatorial mission of the Queens Night Market is to feature traditional foods that may be hard to find in New York City, made by the people who grew up eating them. The organizer suspects that vendor recruitment will be much trickier this year, in the wake of the pandemic.

The Queens Night Market counts nearly 2,000 aspiring entrepreneurs in its vendor network, but last year was devastating for many of those businesses and projects. 

“Anecdotally, I’d estimate between 50 percent and 75 percent of the vendors in our network have either quit the business for good, given up on their entrepreneurial vision, or hit the pause button indefinitely,” Wang said.

Despite the somber outlook on entrepreneurship, the 2021 season is already expected to include Afghan mantu and bolani; Indonesian kue pancong and ote ote; Portuguese pastéis de nata; Filipino balut; dinuguan; and lugaw; Romanian chimney cakes; Vietnamese grilled pork; Burmese palatas and tea leaf salad, among many more to come.

Interested vendors can apply online, or email: vendor@queensnightmarket.com.

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