New Market Building
Pier 17 at South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip
Albert W. Lewis and John D. Churchill
The last building constructed for the Fulton Fish Market, the New Market Building sprang from an era of reform on the part of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who, citing sanitation and safety hazards, abolished pushcarts and open-air markets, and replaced both with a series of indoor markets across the five boroughs. These new markets were funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), an agency established in 1935 by the Federal government as part of the New Deal. The New Market was planned as a new and improved facility for the Fulton Fish Market, which, though thriving as the largest fish distribution center in the world in the late 1930s, had been plagued by unclean facilities whose smells blighted the area. The new facility would include more advanced storage and refrigeration, as well as modern methods for preventing odors. The initial 1937 plan by the Commissioner of Borough Works, Walter D. Binger, was for three new buildings on the east side of South Street, with conveyor belt bridges crossing to the west side of the street, thus decreasing manual handling of fresh food. Selected for the project were architects Albert W. Lewis and John D. Churchill, who designed the first of the three buildings – and the only one to be completed due to the onset of World War II – in the Moderne style favored for WPA projects. The structure was a source of pride for the city upon its completion.
In 1954, the South Street viaduct was completed for a portion of the East River Drive (later known as the FDR Drive), a new highway promised to alleviate congestion and, in the Seaport area, separate waterfront commerce from increasing automobile traffic. Unfortunately, the elevated highway at South Street separated the market from the surrounding neighborhood and the city it served. Rumblings about moving the Fulton Fish Market to The Bronx began as early as the late 1950s, not only because of the highway, but because the trucking industry was becoming the principal means of transporting fish. Despite these factors, the market continued to function on South Street until it finally moved to Hunts Point in 2005. Today, the New Market Building stands as a sleek and contextual reminder of an important event in the history of the Fulton Fish Market: that of its eventual sanctioning by the City of New York after more than one hundred years in operation. It also stands as a crucial link to the final phase in the development of the Seaport as a living, breathing, commercial center.
The New Market Building is located in the State and National Register of Historic Places South Street Seaport historic districts.