Tuesday, May 28, 1996


Barry Benepe

The creator of the Greenmarkets - 33 at the last count, is a neighborhood boy, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Class of 1945 of Friends Seminary not too long ago. Born on 9th and University Place, delivered at the Lying-In_Hospital an 17th and 2nd, a latch-key kid raised on Gramercy Park, he learned farming when Dad - head of Leacock Co., linen importer from china, Belgium and Madeira - bought a truck farm at the height of the depression on the East Shore of Maryland. There the youngster learned to pick crops, pack them for market, and to use the hay baler.

Barry attended Williams Colege in Massachusetts, graduating witha BA in Art, and moved on to a 2-year program at Cooper Union, the free school that has an incredibly high applicant rate, and 2 1/2 years at MIT, leading to an architecture degree. At some point - whether through summer courses with Buckminster Fuller, or learning of the 1920s Ebenezar Howard-inspired Greenbelt Program around London - he decided to do planning. The climate was ripe - the Roosevelt-Eisenhower era Housing Acts dealt with urban ranewal, resources, zoning, protection. The 1929 milestone Radburn, N.J. project with cluster housing and communal open space led to Greenbelt city development. Barry worked on Rockland flood plan in Sullivan County, agricultural planning in east Fishkill, Duchess County, all agricultural developments.

The idea for a Farmers' market - Greenmarket, a protected name - was a joint product of Benepe and Robert Lewis, a colleague who had worked on the Audubon Society projects master plan. The concept - initially a plan - was pushed into actual execution by the funding agencies, initially the J. M. Kaplan Foundation, the Fund for the City Of New York, and particularly, The Council on Environment, an organization that is substantilly funded by the city and has the Mayor's representative on the board. It was during Abraham beame's mayorality that the concept - just do it - took place.

The first Grrenmarket was not ours, the first that lasted was - on Union Square. The first - 59th Street and 2nd Avenue - folded after 3 years because the property was sold. Many other Greeenmarket projects closed. Now there are 33 extamt and doing well.

Some of the people who were material in the development of the project were Victor Marrero, chair of the city' s Planning Commission, Suasanne Davis, who is now working on the street toilet concept, Margot Wellington of the Municipal Arts Society, Mitoo Baxter, who was able to revision the upscale tennis courts design of Union Square North when the market stalls came forth, Michael Strasser of Downtown brooklyn Development Associatiojn, a predecessor of the BID concept, who opened Flatbush to the Greenmarket concept.

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