Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Aqueduct Vendors Ask for Help by Timothy N. Lyman - Queens Courier

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Aqueduct Flea Market vendors gathered again last week to try to save their jobs.

The Aqueduct Flea Market operates three days per week on the grounds of the racetrack. There is still no definite word on whether or not the Market will continue to operate on the racetrack’s grounds as Genting prepares to begin construction.

So on Thursday, November 4, vendors and a representative from the Indo-Caribbean Alliance spoke to the members of Community Board 10 (CB). The vendors expressed fears of economic uncertainty and asked the Board to work with Genting to either preserve the Flea Market at Aqueduct or help the Market find a new location to operate.

“I’ve been working there for 14 years,” said Sudat, a vendor, as he wiped away a tear. “I’m just asking, please, for help.”

“Nobody is doing anything for the Flea Market,” said Martin Tai, who has worked there since he was 15. “Management is doing nothing. Now that Genting is working with Community Board 10, maybe you guys bring up the issue with them.”

Patrick Jenkins, Genting’s community relations official, was not present at the public forum. The Indo-Caribbean Alliance is circulating a petition, which has already gained over 200 signatures, to speak with the company.

According to vendors, Aqueduct’s management said it would negotiate in January. At last month’s meeting CB 10 chair Betty Braton said that the Flea Market’s lease would not be renewed after the holiday season.

“The Community Board plans on working with local officials and vendors to find the market a new site,” she said, adding, “if it comes to that.”

Genting’s Racino, which is expected to open in May or June of next year, will bring 800 permanent jobs to the community.

The Flea Market has operated at Aqueduct for over 40 years and currently provides approximately 2,000 jobs for its vendors, many of whom are immigrants and rely on the market as their sole source of income.

“All our investments, all our lives, are in this flea market.” Tai said.