Remembering Washington Market

N.Y. / REGION | METROPOLITAN DIARY

Dear Diary:

In the early 1950s, my brother Jim and I loved spending summer vacations on our grandfather’s farm, which was one of the three largest on Staten Island before the Depression.

One of the highlights of these stays was “going to market,” which meant riding the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan in late afternoon to deliver freshly cut, and carefully bundled, mint to the family warehouse at Washington Market in Lower Manhattan.

My grandfather would go into the market with his crops, leaving us suburban kids in the car, where we enjoyed the busy street scenes until he came back.

One day, even though my grandmother had warned us to never, never go into the warehouse, I jumped out of the car and peeked through the door.

What I saw was a lesson in New York City economics. A group of farmers was in bleachers, baskets in front of them. A man in a black suit and black brimmed hat, a buyer for restaurants and hotels, walked around inspecting their crops.

“No,” he would say sternly, or “Yes,” he would say with the wave of a hand. The die was cast without a smile.