Tomorrow marks a major - though largely unremarked - change in New York City. After 184 years, the Fulton Fish Market on the eastern tip of lower Manhattan will close.

The thriving early-morning business in fresh fish will still exist, in a shiny new building in the Bronx's Hunts Point. The Hunts Point Fish Market will be more modern, more sanitary and more regulated than the old Fulton Market.

I'm not in the business of mourning change. Change is all there is. Change is the heart of New York City. But the passing of the Fulton Fish Market deserves a moment of our thoughts.

I've never risen hours before dawn to watch the fishmongers at their trade. I've only read about it in stories by people like Joseph Mitchell, the great observer and chronicler of this great city. The Times ran a nice piece about it many months ago. I imagine only people in the food and restaurant business will really notice the change. I've read that for the fish sellers, the move can't come soon enough.

When I was growing up in the suburbs, my father occasionally took us for a seafood dinner at Sloppy Louie's. At the time, I didn't know it was ancient, and famous. To my small eyes, it was just crowded and bustling, a little bit ramshackle, a little bit "raw". It was so city. I loved it. I remember huge, shiny cats - the sleekest, most contented cats you have ever seen - hanging out in doorways.

When the Fulton Landing was re-made into the bland and touristy South Street Seaport (no link because I hate the place), Sloppy Louie's spruced up and went with the flow. Ultimately, and predictably, it couldn't compete with national chains on the skyrocketing rent. It closed in 1998.

I wish the Fish Market another 184 years in the Bronx.

* * * *

In a similar - but less welcome - move, the Bronx Terminal Market is being re-developed by Related Companies, the folks who brought us the Time Warner Center. Gothamist says:
The Related Companies have bought the dilapidated markets for a reported $40 million. At one point, the Bronx Terminal Market was the country's largest Hispanic wholesale market (according to the Times, there were over 100 tenants and 1000 employees once); now there are only 30 vegetable and fruit sellers. While the Bronx Borough President is happy, some of the current tenants are dubious. Hopefully the market will be able to retain its presence with area businesses and not become too over-priced with upgrades - although Gothamist could see some city chefs opening up a casual Bronx cafes in the market.
More about the area, and a whole lot more, from Forgotten NY.

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