Farm, Food, Fashion and the 14th

by David Mora and Labanya Maitra

View of the Empire State Building along Manhattan’s east 14th street ©Labanya Maitra, Aug’17
“Sometimes, from beyond the skyscrapers, the cry of a tugboat finds you in your insomnia, and you remember that this desert of iron and cement is an island.” — Albert Camus

…an island of culture and of character, the city of lights, and the city of life.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Manhattan, the 2.5 miles long 14th Street personifies the diversity that is New York. It is estimated that nearly 50,000 people walk the street on a typical summer Friday, says the Union Square Partnership, a community-based non-profit organization.

There are over a thousand businesses situated along the 14th street. Of them, around 95 are related to restaurants and bars, making the street a lively food district, according to ReferenceUSA.
ReferenceUSA, heatmap of restaurants and bars on 14th St. Retrieved August 30, 2017, from

The Union Square, historically known for hosting numerous union protests, divides the street in half; the East and the West. Today, however, Union Square is known for entirely different reasons. One of them happens to be the weekly farmer’s market organized by GrowNYC.

Union Square Greenmarket

Currently, GrowNYC manages weekly markets in over 50 locations. Most of the markets range in size from 2 to 15 stands. The largest of them are Union Square and Grand Army Plaza, with dozens of stands each.

Opened in 1976, the Union Square Greenmarket has grown from having just a handful of farmers to having over 140 regional farmers, fishermen, and bakers. Operating on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the market welcomes an average of 60,000 people daily — from shoppers and visitors, to students and curious pedestrians, as per GrowNYC data.

To be a part of the Greenmarket, there are two basic rules: farmers must sell only local produce, and other products must only derive from local produce. Fishermen, for instance, may offer catch from mid-Atlantic waters fished in their own fishing boats. Local produce entails that the products must be grown within New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Blue Moon Fish logo ©David Mora, Aug’17

Blue Moon Fish

One of the stalls at the Union Square Greenmarket is Blue Moon Fish. Selling fresh fish for over 30 years, it has a rather special story to tell.

However, the Greenmarket isn’t just an arbitrary assortment of freshly grown local produce. A stroll down the market on a sunny afternoon reveals its potential to create a single, beautiful day of food — picking one ingredient at a time for a day-long extravagant meal; from a breakfast of fresh fruits to an evening washed down with some homegrown vodka.

Union Square Greenmarket app to find information about their daily offer

Beauty Bar

Speaking of vodka, the 14th Street is known for its extravagant nightlife; from restaurants and bars to karaoke and dancing. For the more fashion conscious, the street used to be the fashion district before the city grew northward.

Currently, it has nearly a hundred different clothing, beauty and fashion avenues, according to ReferenceUSA.

Living up to the eccentricities of New York City, the intersection of alcohol and fashion lies on 231 East 14th Street — the Beauty Bar. Opened in 1995, it is a quirky little joint that serves manicures with its martinis, retaining its former ‘salon’ glory.

©Labanya Maitra, Aug ‘17

As weird as it sounds, the bar has attracted the attention of the public ever since it converted from being a regular hair and nail salon to its current day avatar.

Other than the nails, the bar retains a retro atmosphere, plays ’80s music, and also hosts live events and DJs. The Beauty Bar has constantly been under media attention.

Farm, food, fashion or alcohol, the 14th Street has something to offer for all walks of life; across its 15 blocks. Lined with tress, quirks and history, the street carries within itself the character of the entire city.

“Give me such shows — give me the streets of Manhattan!” — Walt Whitman