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Jackson Heights couple starts Queens pop-up market to protect unlicensed vendors from hefty fines

KALEIDOSPACE sells tote bags designed by Queens artists of Latin American backgrounds. (Photo courtesy of KALEIDOSPACE)

A local Jackson Heights couple created a pop-up market after New York state officials began targeting street vendors earlier in the summer.

Jonathan Andres and his wife Lisa Suneesa sprung into action when they found out vendors were facing hefty fines as part of New York City’s reopening plan.

Back in June, the state issued $1,000 fines to unpermitted mobile food vendors as part of New York City’s reopening. Unlicensed merchandise vendors faced a fine of $250. 

“Now that the city is enforcing ridiculous rules about vending — and oftentimes unfairly targeting certain people or certain areas but not others — hosting these events has been a great way for artists to still make ends meet, all in a space that’s welcoming and where they don’t have to worry about being harassed by law enforcement,” Andres said.

Andres collaborated with the Jewish Center in Jackson Heights in May for their first pop-up market. In particular, Andres made sure to showcase local, women-owned and Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) vendors.

In their last pop-up market on Sunday, July 25, they had about 30 vendors. The events are open to the public for free, where they can shop, explore local businesses and experience different cultures. 

There was also a raffle to help the victims of the massive Jackson Heights fire that left more than 200 families displaced in April. Funds from the raffle were given to the GoFundMe page created for the victims. 

Raffle that donated proceeds to the victims of the Jackson Heights fire in March. (Photo courtesy of Manuela Agudelo)

Andres said the vendors sell a variety of goods, from Filipino mochi cookies to Brooklyn-based graphic artists. 

“We have basically every culture, every type and style of thing that can be created beautifully,” Andres said.

Marylen Montanes, 67, sold her ceramic artwork at the pop-up market on Sunday, July 25. She started making and selling ceramics when she was a young woman in Uraguay.

Marylen Montanes selling her ceramic art at the Queens pop-up market. (Photo courtesy of Chanel Martinez)

In her late 20s, she brought her two daughters to America. As she worked as a chef in New York City public schools, she stopped selling her art. It wasn’t until she recently retired that she could dedicate more time to her ceramic work. 

“Everyone was really inspired by the fact that she restarted this hobby and passion of hers in retirement,” Montanes’ granddaughter Chanel Martinez said. “It’s been over 35 years since she’s sold her art and she was touched by how encouraging and supportive people were.”

Erick Teran from City Prints also participated in the last pop-up market. As a Jackson Heights resident and son of immigrants, Teran was extremely happy to be a part of the pop-up market. 

“I feel like [City Prints] relates to what I imagine my parents feeling when they saw the skyline and they see NYC as this manifestation of dreams and opportunity,” Teran said. “City Prints really fits in well with the other vendors at these pop-up markets.”

The next pop-up market will be held on Aug. 15 at the Jewish Center in Jackson Heights.

After that, Andres and his wife will be stepping back from the market since they are moving out of New York. 

 “We’re hoping that we’re laying out a good foundation for another organization in the neighborhood to take it and continue this,” Andres said. “So many people come and everyone has really enjoyed it.”

Andres said hundreds of people come out to the pop-up markets and many community members tell him that a diverse group that creates a safe place for vendors is exactly what Jackson Heights needed. 

“There isn’t anything like this here in Queens,” Andres said. “If New York is the melting pot of the world, I would take it a step further and say Queens is the heart of that melting pot. There’s so much diversity in the neighborhoods that the 7 train runs through.”

For more information on future events, visit the pop-up market Instagram page.

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