As the owners of a popular flea market fought for an official operating permit, they were compared to “slumlords” by some of the market’s disgruntled vendors.
The Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market has operated on W. 39th St. between 9th and 10th Avenues since 2003. It’s owned by Alan Boss, who also operates the Chelsea Flea Market on W. 25th St.
On Monday December 8, Boss appeared before Community Board 4’s Quality of Life committee to address issues concerning discontented vendors and the nonprofit organization that sponsors the flea market, DNAInfo reported.
The city’s Street Activity Permit Office requires all flea markets and street festivals to have a “community sponsor,” such as a nonprofit foundation.
The Hell’s Kitchen Market is sponsored by a nonprofit called the Hell’s Kitchen Foundation, Inc. But the foundation only received nonprofit status from the IRS this past March. Moreover, it was incorporated by Boss himself.
Boss told the committee that even though the nonprofit’s stated mission involves providing “financial assistance to Hell’s Kitchen resident artists,” it has never disbursed a single penny. He did, however, promise to “retroactively fund” deserving artists in the future.
Meanwhile, Boss and his wife, Helene, have been targeted by vendors for mismanagement, “episodes of abuse,” and sky-high rents. The city’s Street Vendor Project has received five official affidavits from vendors unhappy with the Bosses.
Alan and Helene Boss have “not providing the services and environment the vendors reasonably expect and that they should be getting,” former vendor David Bros told DNAInfo.
And a current vendor complained that the Bosses’ poor management and failure to advertise has caused the number of vendors at the market to plummet from 100 to 30 over the past few years.
Nevertheless, nearly a dozen vendors praised the market in front of the committee, and asked representatives to approve its permit. Boss admitted that he’d encountered problems with certain vendors, and promised to bring in city mediators should future disputes arise.
Committee members scolded Boss for failing to provide members with basic financial information or definite plans to improve the market’s current conditions. They gave Boss until 4 pm on December 9 to deliver this material.
At that point, the Community Board will have a week to decide whether to issue the permit that will allow the market to remain open in 2016.