Whenever I walk to the 1 train at 137th Street on the weekends, I make sure to take the long way around so I can drop by the unofficial flea market that groups in the vicinity of Montefiore Park on Saturdays and Sundays.
For anyone who loves to rummage through other people's castoffs, this bazaar is a must. Year round, a small group of enterprising merchants sells everything from kitchen wares and assorted electronics to shoes and clothing. Over the years I have found a very fancy paper shredder, a banana bread pan, and collectible vintage Pyrex. Last weekend there was a deer head for $100–perfect for your private hunting lodge.
A word of warning before you go, however: lately there have been some very big changes afoot at the park, and the fate of this merry band of self-organized vendors is unknown.
Image: NYC Public Design Commission
Montefiore Park is undergoing a stem-to-stern redesign, including major water and other utility improvements. The street on its eastern edge (Hamilton Place, where the vendors most recently congregated) will be incorporated into the park as it expands and becomes more welcoming. Eventually–the official completion date is December 2018–Montefiore will take on the features of the award-winning park design in the image above.
To make matters even more complicated for the vendors, they have been targeted by the police for lacking the correct license. But they are not giving up, according to one seller I spoke with last Saturday. (A liaison for council member Mark Levine confirmed the permitting issue and says the merchants have been advised to attend local police precinct meetings to try to resolve their problems.)
Go this weekend and you might find the vendors lining the sidewalk on 136th or 138th Streets between Hamilton Place and Amsterdam Avenue. (The Montefiore Park Neighborhood Association has also organized an "It's My Park" day this Saturday, October 28 from 11am-2pm, during which community volunteers–that could be you!–will be planting bulbs and tidying things up.)
If you find yourself hungry after all that browsing (or volunteering), stop by Las Americas bakery, a local favorite on the corner of Broadway and 136th Street. Their piping hot cafe con leche is as good as it gets (as long as you ask they go easy on the sugar). And right now you can choose from an assortment of Halloween treats, from spooky skull sugar cookies to cupcakes decorated with spiders and ghosts. No matter your pick, it's all cheap, tasty and filling.