Where most people see an empty parking lot in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, John Wang paints a scene with culture bursting at the seams.
An attorney by trade, Wang traded mergers and acquisitions for a chance to open New York City’s first nighttime open-air market featuring foods, arts and crafts from every corner of New York.
While most night markets may be associated with vibrant Asian communities and neighborhoods — not unlike the ones Wang would visit growing up with his family when in Taiwan — he said opening one in the city would be uniquely New York.
In a town full high-end markets and fleas, Wang said he wants the Queens International Night Market to be just as accessible to vendors as it is to visitors.
“We’re trying to do something very different,” Wang said. “At the end of the day, we want to attract people from all over the city and engage all cultures.”
Currently scheduled to open in late spring, the market would be free to the public and open every Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Wang said a successful night would be an Asian New Yorker coming to the market and enjoying a taco for the first time, or an African neighbor trying fried dumplings.
That’s where the location comes in, Wang said. Set to open in late spring, the market would host some 150 food and art vendors in the parking lot across from the Hall of Science.
A 10-minute walk away from the 7 train’s 111th Street stop, the space at the park’s easternmost edge is in the shadows of both Citi Field and the New York State Pavilion.
“If we had it in Flushing, it could have been an Asian-specific night. If we had it Corona, it’d probably be a Latin American thing. If we did it in Jackson Heights, it’d be a Nepalese, Tibetan, Indian event,” Wang said. “We wanted somewhere where everyone can a little bit of everything.”
Wang said he wants the market to be just as accessible to vendors as it is to visitors in a borough that’s home to more than 130 languages.
“In some popular markets, the cheapest you can get is $8 or $9,” Wang said. “We’re hoping to put price limits so people don’t have to pay more than five bucks for food.”
Working with a small crew of volunteers, he hopes to secure enough support to cover the $10,000 nightly costs with the smallest financial burden possible on businesses that want to open up shop at the market.
Wang and his team also launched a Kickstarter set to end on April 2. They’re about 10 percent funded as of mid March, but hope to make its $100,000 goal if only to not be more beholden to vendors than to investors early on into the launch.
Either way, Wang said, the market will make its debut this year.
“This has been my full time job for more than year,” said Wang, who got rid of his smartphone when he took on the project last year. “It’s surprisingly much harder than being a lawyer, but at least now it’s personal.”
Correction: A previous version of this story identified the closest train stop as the 117th 7 train stop. It is the 111th stop.