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Flea market meeting gets heated

The Brooklyn Paper
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Opponents and organizers of a popular, new flea market met in a heated, ethnically charged summit last night that ended without any solutions to the chasm that separates the sides.

Brooklyn Flea, one of the biggest weekend hits since Sunday brunch itself, has attracted thousands of shoppers and hundreds of merchants to Bishop Loughlin HS, on Lafayette Avenue each week. But neighbors have complained about the noise and traffic caused by the Manhattan-style bazaar, and some local churches wish the market could be rescheduled so that it would no longer coincide with services.

“It’s the typical ‘neighborhood that doesn’t want to change’ story,” said Linda Scher, a ‘Flea’ fan and a member of the Society for Clinton Hill.

On the other hand: “They shoved something in the community’s face like ‘bam!’” said flea market opponent Carol Allen. “If something that’s established suddenly changes — and something commercial comes in on the Sabbath — you can be upset.”

At the meeting, which took place on Thursday night in Queen of All Saints Church, between Vanderbilt and Clermont avenues directly across the street from the swap meet, about 150 people traded opinions like vendors trading lamps hand-made out of driftwood.

Opponents spoke of lost weekend parking, of bicycles locked to their gates and of overflowing trash cans since the market started three months ago.

Supporters spoke of a market that gives craftsmen a place to sell their Brooklyn-made wares, of a gathering place for neighbors and of a fun thing to do on a Sunday.

The meeting was closed to the press — odd, considering that invitations had gone out in advance. People inside later said that the gathering turned ugly when several churchgoers, who say the ‘Flea’ disrupts their Sabbath, uttered anti-Semitic remarks.

“A couple of people said ‘Let us say this would never happen in front of a synagogue on Saturday,’” said Leo Glickman, a supporter of the flea market. Other people in the audience recounted similar statements.

Later, in a less-tense atmosphere, one of Brooklyn Flea’s co-founders said he and his partners have tried to mitigate any adverse impact from the event, such as hiring security and cleaning crews, and urging customers to refrain from straying in front of the church or onto neighbors’ stoops.

“We’ve done a lot and addressed every concern we’ve heard of,” said Eric Demby, a former staffer with Borough President Markowitz. “To be perfectly frank, I’m not sure there’s much we can really do differently.”

Suggested changes include rescheduling the flea market to Saturday — not likely because Bishop Loughlin HS uses its field for sporting events — installing bike racks and making cash contributions to nearby churches.

The police have reserved the south side of Lafayette Avenue and the west side of Vanderbilt Avenue that border the Catholic boy high school for the flea market’s 150 or more weekly vendors to load and unload their merchandise. They then have to find a spot elsewhere.

The drivers most annoyed by the parking shortage appear to be people who come to Fort Greene and Clinton Hill churches from outside the neighborhood.

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