Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace officially opens

The Flatbush Central Caribbean Market.  NYCEDC
The Flatbush Central Caribbean Market.

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Housing Development Corporation (HDC), BRP Companies and Urbane on Tuesday have announced the opening and rebranding of Flatbush Central — formerly Flatbush Caton Market — the revitalized marketplace which has been part of the fabric of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn for more than 20 years.

NYCEDC said the new Flatbush Central offers upgraded amenities, expanded space for food vendors — inclusive of a Caribbean-themed food hall, shared commercial kitchen, bar, and lounge — and new programming to engage entrepreneurs and the broader community in building connections and celebrating the cultures of Flatbush and Central Brooklyn.

Flatbush Central’s rebrand was inspired by a desire to fulfill the vision of the market’s founder — Jamaican-born Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, former New York City council member — who sponsored the market’s creation to build an institution for Caribbean people in Flatbush through the incubation of Caribbean businesses, NYCEDC said.

Through an extensive research and design process that involved discussions with several community stakeholders, including patrons and vendors of the market, NYCEDC said a new logo and brand emerged to reflect the diversity of the vibrant Caribbean cultures that influence the market.

“I am delighted to see my vision fulfilled, that vendors and entrepreneurs from our community now have a permanent home which gives both pride and dignity to those who struggled for existence and recognition,” said Dr. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to be elected to New York City Council. “The name of the new site — Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace — is fitting because it acknowledges the contribution that Caribbeans have made to Flatbush and East Flatbush.

“I have long dreamt of and supported the aspirations of the Caribbean people,” she added. “As a civil rights leader at the forefront of the community for more than four decades, building long-standing institutions rather than promoting temporary programs in our community is of the utmost importance. Because institutions last while programs come and go.”

“Flatbush Central Caribbean Market is an embodiment of New York City’s small business recovery,” said NYCEDC President and Chief Executive Officer, Rachel Loeb. “We are excited to open the doors to this market whose resilient vendors celebrate the rich Caribbean culture of this area of Brooklyn. We are proud to have worked with our development partners to deliver a project that will strengthen the Caribbean and Brooklyn communities for generations to come.”

HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión, Jr. said, “Flatbush Central Caribbean Market is a long-time anchor of the community, providing culturally significant commerce for more than 20 years.

“We’re proud to be part of a partnership rooted in serving the needs of this community,” he added. “Caton Flats, an affordable housing development that is currently leasing up, will be anchored by a new and improved Flatbush Central Caribbean Market at the ground floor level,” said “Congratulations to the small businesses, and to BRP Companies, Urbane, EDC, HDC, and our team at HPD for their hard work on this great development. We will soon cut the ribbon on the 255 affordable homes at Caton Flats.”

NYCEDC said more than just a shopping destination, Flatbush Central represents a central place where Caribbean culture and Diaspora traditions are expressed in a shared space through commerce, food, events, myriad arts, and more. The market features a variety of small businesses that operate year-round.

Additionally, NYCEDC said the market will introduce its Mangrove™ accelerator—an economic mobility platform and incubator program whose goal is to spur community wealth opportunities—to the site to promote the growth of new and existing small local businesses.

The Mangrove™ at Flatbush Central will offer access to state-of-the-art shared food and culinary, natural body care and cosmetics, new media, and textile production facilities, specifically targeting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs to support the growth of their businesses.

The Mangrove™ will provide direct, industry-specific technical assistance, access to capital, cohort-based business curriculum for informal and emerging businesses, respectively, as well as facilitate partnerships with larger corporate entities and institutions for business-to-business (B2B) opportunities, NYCEDC said.

“Small, local vendors like the ones returning to Flatbush Central are part of what makes Brooklyn so unique,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m excited to see them in a new, permanent home that celebrates Caribbean culture and will also have incubator space to support new small businesses. I can’t wait to go and try some doubles and roti!”

“The distinctly Caribbean character of Flatbush is one of the many reasons I’m so proud to represent the neighborhood in the Council,” said Councilmember Rita Joseph, the newly-elected representative for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn. “The Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace will be a beacon of culture in Central Brooklyn for both Caribbeans and non-Caribbeans, and I’m thankful for all the leaders who made the opening possible.”

“For years the Flatbush Caton Market has been responsible for the success of entrepreneurs in the 21st district in which I represent and the surrounding areas,” said State Sen. Kevin Parker, representative for the 21st Senate District in Brooklyn. “The rebranding will be helpful to so many small business owners who took a hit a during the pandemic. The market not only spurred economic growth but met the needs of the community. I am proud that they were able to still be up and running during this critical time”

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Dr. Clarke’s daughter, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, noted that her mother, more than 20 years ago, “founded a marketplace for Brooklyn’s Caribbean community on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Caton Avenue. The Flatbush Caton Market soon burgeoned into a hub where a host of Caribbean, West African and South American vendors gathered to share culture and sell their goods.

“Today, what started out as a small gathering on blankets and in tents has become an invaluable resource for all of New York, especially the Caribbean community,” Congresswoman Clarke said. “And my mother’s legacy to this proud and historic moment certainly makes her the cornerstone of this new foundation.

“Beyond her tireless work to improve our Brooklyn community and help grow local businesses, Dr. Clarke helped countless others establish roots in their new country, and Flatbush Caton Market–Brooklyn’s cultural fabric–is a wonderful example of that legacy,” she added, stating that after decades of work, progress and growth, “the revitalization of FCM is finally complete, and I am tremendously proud to witness the fruits of my mother’s love and labor be realized.

“Thanks to partnerships with New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York City Housing Development Corporation, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Urbane Development and BRP Companies, our Caribbean community in Brooklyn has an improved and unique space for their entrepreneurial endeavors to thrive,” the congresswoman continued. “Like so many members of our beloved community, the Clarke family have long awaited this day, and we eagerly anticipate the moment we can experience the new Flatbush Central in all its glory.”

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, the Haitian-American chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said the opening of the Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace is “a victory that our entire community can rejoice in.

“The new amenities, and Mangrove accelerator, give us hope for renewed prosperity and socio-economic growth in our area,” said the representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “This project also promises to uplift those who suffered the most from the wrath of the pandemic: Black small business owners. As chair of the New York State subcommittee on MWBEs, I applaud this opening, and encourage New Yorkers to come explore and experience the rich culture our neighborhood has to offer.”

NYCEDC said the newly-opened market is located on the ground floor of Caton Flats, a 14-story, mixed-use development containing 255 units of 100 percent affordable housing and over 20,000 square feet of community space in Flatbush.

Residences range in size from studios to three-bedroom, and are available to a range of incomes from very low-income to middle-income households, NYCEDC said.

Located at the northwest corner of Caton and Flatbush Avenues, Caton Flats delivers, among other things, 16,000 square feet of space for Flatbush Central; small business incubators and offices; 5,000 square feet of supplemental community space; a Caribbean Trade Center and headquarters owned and operated by Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI); and 10,000 square feet dedicated to local retail.

More from Around NYC