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Chappaqua's Winter Farmers Market In Jeopardy Over Space

Will Wedge at the New Castle Town Board's Dec. 2 meeting.
Will Wedge at the New Castle Town Board's Dec. 2 meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The indoor winter farmers market in Chappaqua could be cancelled due to lack of sufficient dates for space, according to a member of the market's board.

The member, Will Wedge, was incensed when he spoke to New Castle Town Board members at their Dec. 2 meeting. He warned that the market will be closed if the issue is not resolved by the end of the week.

Wedge recalled a Nov. 24 meeting with Bob Snyder, the superintendent of the town's Recreation & Parks Department, where a request was made for eight dates to use the Community Center. Wedge said Snyder did not have a problem with the eight dates and noted that an application was made.

The following Monday, Wedge said only five dates were offered, or about one-quarter of the market's normal winter schedule. Wedge argued this number is not viable economically and it is not possible to attract the vendors needed.

“We are not getting a straight answer out of the town on what dates are available," Wedge said. "So either tell us what's available or not available."

Town Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis attributed the figure to a Recreation Commission policy that does not allow for consecutive uses. He explained the commission wants to make sure the center is available for others.

Town Administrator Jill Shapiro had a different account of what happened regarding the requested dates. She recalled meeting with Priscilla Sorensen, who is chair of the organization's board, and Pascale Le Draoulec, who has served as the market's director. Shapiro said she was present when they filled out an application and suggested they fill out eight dates but that it was “as their wish list.”

Shapiro added there was "a very clear understanding that those dates were not promised to them.”

Wedge disagreed with Shapiro's account.

Town officials repeatedly implored Wedge to work out the matter with the commission and Snyder. Members of the board also noted the issue is not within their purview, an argument that didn't sit well with Wedge.

Wedge expressed frustration with the pace of talks between the farmers market organization and the town, which have been going on for months. The winter farmers market was housed at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, but Wedge said the church decided not to renew the lease.

An attempt to use school space was rebuffed, it was noted. The town has given permission for use of the Chappaqua train station's interior and outside but, according to Ward-Willis, there has been liability concern regarding town employees handling propane tanks for heat lamps.

Addressing the heat lamps, Supervisor Rob Greenstein said there aren't enough staff to set them up and take them down.

“That would be your responsibility and you guys balked at that," he said.

Deputy Supervisor Lisa Katz suggested another alternative, which would be to ask the fire department for use of its underutilized space. In that scenario, Katz suggested the Community Center could be used for the five dates while the firehouse could be used for others. While Wedge was not against the idea, he said there isn't enough time.

After Greenstein recapped the need for recreation department approval, Wedge left upset.

“Throw out the baby with the bathwater, ladies and gentlemen," he said.

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