The annual Northport Farmers Market, highlighted by farm-to-table produce sales, has been tabled for 2020 due to coronavirus safety concerns, village Mayor Damon McMullen said in a village board conference call Tuesday.
McMullen pledged not to bow to social media pressure calling for the market to open as planned, but he did agree to further discussion with village officials Wednesday — reaffirming his decision wasn't a cancellation but a postponement. The market typically opens in early June.
At the heart of the decision is an issue faced by officials across Long Island, America and around the globe: What is the new “normal” for social gatherings in these trying times?
Supporters of the market — among them Dorothy Walsh of the Northport Chamber of Commerce, and local resident Monica Zenyuh, whose online petition to open the market already has more than 840 e-signatures — argued Tuesday that benefits of hosting the open-air Saturday seasonal market outweigh any concerns, and that social distancing protocols can and will be maintained.
Walsh, Zenyuh and local residents Rocco Nigro and Dave Weber all urged the village to reconsider the decision to postpone the market, arguing the benefit of residents being able to access farm-fresh produce in the open-air environment.
“There’s so much benefit to having that market, you do not know,” Nigro said.
But McMullen and village trustees Mercy Smith, Jerry Maline, Tom Kehoe and Ian Milligan said safety issues concerning Main Street and the reopening of the downtown area have already arisen — and that on Mother’s Day the village handed out at least 150 masks to visitors who were not wearing them. Maline estimated about 80% of all visitors failed to adhere to social distancing protocols that day.
“The risk to the village really doesn’t match the benefit to village residents or village businesses,” McMullen said, adding: “I personally as mayor do not and will not govern to social media. I think that’s a poor way to govern, by following social media.”
To which Milligan said: “The door is not closed on the farmers market . . . but we shouldn’t rush to open the farmers market just because it’s what the people want.”
At the urging of Smith, seconded later by other trustees, McMullen reluctantly agreed to further discussion in a phone conference forum Wednesday with Northport Chief of Police Chris Hughes, fire department officials and others to determine if there is a way to safely accommodate the hundreds of visitors the market would draw each Saturday.
McMullen said the matter would then be open to further discussion at the next trustees meeting, scheduled for a conference call June 2.