Brooklyn Terminal Markets: The Complete Guide

Photo by E. Freudenheim 2012

The Brooklyn Terminal Markets is a wholesale food and plant market in Canarsie, Brooklyn,  in operation since 1945.

Retail customers still go there for seasonal flowers, holiday decorations, and especially Christmas trees and decorations. Oh, and did we mention local color and a touch of history? There's "Leo's Apples," and "Whitey Produce," and "M & M Smoked Fish," "Morris Pagano," "Sciafani Beer and Soda," and then simply sections marked by what's sold, as in "Watermelons."

Where Is the Brooklyn Terminal Markets?

This market is in Canarsie, close to Flatbush. It's far from the hip bars and locavore restaurants of North Brooklyn, the highrises near the East River bridges, and at least one raised eyebrow away from stroller gridlock, parent-perfect Park Slope. The area is not particularly gentrified or moneyed. Rents are affordable and supermarkets and stores sell the basics. 

Why Go

You can schmooze with the owners and get a break from high-intensity Brooklyn. You can also get a good selection of shrubs, Christmas trees and wreaths, trees and basic garden flowers, a lot of different kinds of garden and planting supplies, free advice, and parking is often relatively easy.  Plus, if you've never been in Canarsie, why not?

History buffs will be interested to know that this area was created by New York City when the then-thriving Wallabout Market was shut in 1941 so the Navy Yard could expand to support the war effort. The market was moved away from the waterfront inland to the then-new Brooklyn Terminal Markets in Canarsie, according to the Brooklyn Historical Society. Today the Brooklyn Terminal Markets is much smaller than it was in mid-20th century.

Some visitors like the pickles here better than what they find on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Prices are not as low as they used to be for retail customers. You might pay a few dollars less for a large chrysanthemum plant here than in your local farmers market, but don't expect wholesale prices.

Given contemporary Brooklyn's intense interest in fresh food and local markets, it will be interesting to see if this old-time marketplace experiences a rebirth.

Real People in Real Markets

The Brooklyn Terminal Markets merchant association's tagline is a droll, elbow-in-the-ribs "Real People in Real Markets", and indeed half the fun of going here is to touch base with a longstanding Brooklyn institution.

Some of the businesses are still run by the same families who opened them back in the days after World War II, before Robert Moses, redlining and suburbanization lured Brooklynites of means to depart from, rather than flock to, the borough.

Some people call this the Brooklyn Terminal Market. It's properly named Brooklyn Terminal Markets.

Directions by Car

The main gate is on Foster Ave. near E. 87th St., 444-5700 or 968-8434, daily 4 a.m.–6 p.m, and open until 8 p.m during the holidays. (Take Exit 13 off the Belt Pkwy., go north on Rockaway Pkwy., then left on Foster Ave. to the main gate.) Make sure you look at the map or use your GPS; it's easy to get lost here.