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Genesee Country Farmers' Market

November 10, 2020 - 8:42am

Batavia City Council members vigorously defended themselves Monday night after a city resident called them out for not communicating effectively with their constituents.

Sammy DiSalvo, speaking during the public comments portion of the Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, said he was there to “talk about a larger issue that seems to be facing Council and city government as a whole – the lack of communication from city officials and from Council.”

“Elected officials are meant to represent and listen to citizens, not to ignore what citizens say," DiSalvo said. "Elected officials are meant to represent and listen to citizens, not to pursue personal interests. Elected officials are meant to represent and listen to citizens. This lack of communication from our City government is not acceptable.”

DiSalvo ran against incumbent Council Member Jeremy Karas last week for the unexpired term for Councilman-at-Large, but is trailing by 636 votes pending the counting of absentee ballots.

He gave examples of what he called Council’s “persistent refusal to listen to and communicate with residents” and said it was a “disgrace” that no Council member responded to a woman’s concerns when she spoke a couple weeks ago.

DiSalvo mentioned the problems with the deer committee over the summer and with the City Youth Board.

“These are two committees that Council has put together – both committees that Council decided not to inform of things happening until after decisions were made,” he said. “What’s the point of having a committee if you’re going to make decisions without them?”

He also criticized city leaders for their role in turning the farmers’ market situation “into a media and Facebook fight.”

“There’s also a lack of listening to the community over the construction of where the (new) police station should be and there is a lack of listening to the community over what to do with the mall when the entire community says, ‘Get that thing out of the city’s hands and stop investing money in it,’ and you all want to double-down on it,” he said. “People did not want that mall when it replaced beautiful Main Street back in the late '60s  and early '70s and they don’t want it in 2020.”

DiSalvo said residents have complained to him that no Council members have social media to share their real-time thoughts on Batavia.

“To which I have no response, other than it is much easier to be a mouse and hide than it is to speak out and risk being burned,” he said, before crediting the city for increasing its frequency of posts on its social media site.

Council members, in their responses, rejected DiSalvo’s scathing assessment.

-- John Canale: “I take offense to that Mr. DiSalvo. I listen to my city residents. I listen to the ones who contact me. I don’t go by what I’m reading on social media because I don’t believe most of what I read on social media. My constituents call me, as I am sure they do my colleagues, when they have concerns – or they send me an email or they show up at my front door, my front steps, and believe me that has happened quite often. So, the people that call me, I respond to. If I get an email, I immediately forward it to her to look into it for me and as soon as she gets an answer, she responds back to me and I forward that to my constituent.”

On the police station issue, Canale said Council took the task force’s recommendations and tried to purchase its first choice, but when that fell through, went with another one of its suggested sites (Alva Place parking lot). As far as responding to public speakers, he said he will respond if he has an adequate answer and, if not, will look into the matter further.

-- Paul Viele: “I have to agree with John, With the farmers’ market, we own the property. Why would we buy another piece of land and put the police station on there? That’s common sense. I coach hockey and I coach baseball, I’m all for the youth. When John said we’re not going to cut the youth (programs), we would never do that. And I also take offense to being called a mouse because I’m not on social media. Mr. DiSalvo, you have not a clue of what we do in here. What you do and what you see, when you sit back there, so I take offense to that.”

-- Kathleen Briggs: “I really take offense that I don’t listen to my constituents. I have a lot of problems in my (Fifth) Ward, and I’m telling you that my constituents, they know. They call me Monday through Sunday, anytime, I’ve gotten calls at 8 in the morning, and if I’m not home, I have a machine and they leave a message on my machine and I get back to them immediately and I listen to their concerns, I go to the proper department and I get back to them as soon as I can. I really take offense to the fact that we have someone saying that I don’t listen to my constituents. That’s appalling to me.”

-- Robert Bialkowski: “As far as not responding, I spent three hours on the phone yesterday discussing issues with various people … and today I spent two hours on the phone. Topics of conversation were about the youth bureau. The way it works, citizens are on top of the pyramid. Period. End of story. The individual citizens here, they call the shots. … We’re policy makers. We don’t run the city day-to-day. When it comes to the youth bureau, that’s policy … that’s up to us. And if we make the wrong decisions, then I guess some of us won’t be here in the future.”

He did acknowledge DiSalvo’s concerns about the deer committee, saying it “turned out to be a nightmare for everybody involved, and I apologize for that. It shouldn’t have happened.”

“My bigger concern is that when we use committees and we use boards, let’s treat them fairly and include them into the decision-making process. I don’t like making a decision and then telling the board about it after the fact. My concern is why would anybody even want to serve on boards?”

-- Al McGinnis: “I spent two hours over tea at my house with (Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Manager) Betty Carr talking about the farmers’ market, and Alva Place and the police (station). What a lot of people don’t realize or refuse to realize is that every single member of this Council spends an inordinate amount of time with their constituents in private – either a personal visit or a phone call. We don’t have to speak up in public; a lot of people would like to talk to you privately … which we do on our own time as part of the job.”

-- Patti Pacino: “Here’s what you need to know – I’m not offended in the least. You have the right to say what you have to say, so there you are. I learned from a great person, Mary Pat Hancock, who taught me to let it roll off your back, live with it, not everybody is going to agree. I want everybody to know that I also listen to everybody on Jackson Square, youth bureau, farmers’ market and all that, she said, adding that she is against the city youth programs being run by the YMCA.”

Another public speaker, city resident John Roach, sided with Council members in that they do listen.

“We just had an election and had two different points of view and the other point of view won (Jeremy Karas) by 600-something votes pending the recount of the absentee ballots,” Roach said.

Then he proceeded to give his thoughts on the farmers’ market and the location of a new headquarters for the Batavia Police Department.

“They’re over there at Alva Place by the good graces of City Council. You allow them to be there. They don’t pay user fees, they don’t pay property taxes or anything else,” he said. “And we’re going to put a police station somewhere and I know that wasn’t the first choice, it wasn’t the second choice, but it is the current choice. We already own the property. Environmental issues are going to be a lot less. There are already utilities there. Let the farmers’ market move.”

Roach said it would be unwise for the police department to move into the former JCPenney store.

“Well, that would mean taking property off the tax rolls and they also pay mall maintenance fees. Let the farmers’ market contact the owners of the Penney’s building. Let them pay rent. Let them move into Penney’s. It’s a huge place. Great place for a farmers’ market,” he said. “Why should the city have to foot the bill to relocate the police station somewhere else and maybe pay another $500,000 to buy another piece of property? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

November 9, 2020 - 5:32pm

publicmarketjun82018.jpg

The treasurer of the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market, which recently concluded its 46th season providing locally grown produce and other food items, today said that Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. has reached out to her to set up a meeting in the near future.

“That’s a start,” said Sharon Brent, speaking by telephone from her Middleport home. “Mr. Jankowski said that (Interim City Manager) Rachael (Tabelski) would be contacting me.”

Brent is owner of Schwab Farm Market in Gasport and has been involved with the farmers’ market since its inception.

The future location of the public market is unclear in light of the fact that the city is looking at the Alva Place parking lot as the desired site for a new headquarters for the Batavia Police Department.

The farmers’ market has operated at that location since 2016, when it entered into an agreement with the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District to have one large market at one location – instead of two or more sites in and around the city.

Prior to that, the market was located at the Kmart parking lot for about a decade before moving to a lot at Batavia Downs from 2006 through 2015.

Previous reports that the market moved 11 times in 15 years referred to its early years, not recently, Brent said.

“We originally started in front of Super Duper, where the (Tonawanda Valley Federal) credit union is now and we used to be right where Wendy’s is, in the Angotti’s (Beverage Corp.) parking lot and way behind the (former) Engine House Restaurant – near a skating place on some gravel,” Brent said. “That was the reason we left the city and went out to Kmart and the Downs, because we wanted a stable location.”

Brent said the only reason the market returned to the city is because the BID requested a consolidation – with the stipulation that there would be just one market at one location.

“The BID used to run the farmers’ market that was on Thursday at Angotti’s and then they moved to Alva Place, and it was run by volunteers,” Brent recalled. “(Former BID Director) Don Burkel approached us and proposed Downtown Batavia Public Market in one location. He said we can’t be at the Downs and at Alva Place.”

So, the area vendors hit the road to Batavia on three days (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays) instead of the two they spent at Batavia Downs, Brent said.

She said that after a couple years, BID officials asked the GCFM to “run all aspects of the farmers’ market as it was getting difficult to find volunteers.”

“Of all the locations over the 40 some years, that (Alva Place) still has been the best place as far as ability for people to get to,” she said. “It has anything that you as a business owner would like in a location and it fit all of those things.”

Brent said that five years ago, there never was a discussion about a police station going there.

“That was never brought up,” she said.

Things have changed since then, however, as the city has enlisted Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville, to conduct a feasibility study into the construction of a new police facility on the lot north of Alva Place and west of Bank Street.

Brent said the GCFM board of directors is “definitely open to other options” and welcomes the opportunity to provide input to city officials.

“It is what it is. I’ve done well. I run a good business and have done well no matter where I’ve been,” she said. “But, as far as the residents of the city, to me they should have a voice in what they would want.”

Business Improvement District representatives said their organization continues to support the farmers’ market and they understand why Brent and her colleagues wish to stay at the Alva Place lot.

“We see the value in it and we support the public market,” BID President Don Brown said. “To us, it is an event Downtown that brings people Downtown, but it’s not a BID event. They’re their own entity.”

Brown called the Alva Place site “a fabulous location and they’d be crazy not to want that.”

“My perception of the situation is that this has been a long-term plan for the police station – it has been going on for several years here," he said. "They’ve had all kinds of studies and votes, and all kinds of ideas of where to put it and why to put it.

"The public market was never going to be there permanently from what I recall, unless they were going to build a building …if they got the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) money and the BID wanted to bond something like that.”

Brown said the BID spent $25,000 on a feasibility study in an unsuccessful application for a DRI award.

“We didn’t get it; so, the BID definitely decided that they didn’t want to bond it," he said. "It was too much and they couldn’t tell us how much traffic the market was going to bring or whether the market was going to quadruple. So, why create another tax for something that we’re unsure of. That was the long side of that.”

BID Executive Director Beth Kemp, who sits on the GCFM board, noted that her agency is not as involved as it was in the past, but “we definitely support them as with any event that happens in the downtown.”

“We understand the vitality that a public market brings to the Downtown, and we’re here to assist in any way,” she said. “We don’t want to see the public market go away from Downtown, and we’re eager to come up with other options if that’s the way it has to go. I know that our board has tried to generate a couple of alternative ideas, but so far nothing substantial.”

Kemp said the consensus of GCFM directors is that they wish they could stay put.

“Yes, ideally they love that location, they love the demographics that they serve which has increased since they’ve been there and the walkability,” she said. “Out of all their locations, that is the most ideal; that is the one they love the most.”

File photo of Genesee Country Farmers' Market by Howard Owens.

November 8, 2020 - 3:09pm

As a Williamsville architectural firm conducts a feasibility study on the construction of a new Batavia Police Department headquarters on the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street, a representative of the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market continues to seek an “open dialogue” with City Council on the future of the seasonal produce business.

In 2020, the privately owned market, which has been at several locations over the past 15 years, conducted business on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 5 through Oct. 30 on the Downtown lot across the street from the City Centre Mall.

The market has been a hot topic of discussion in recent days following Market Manager Elizabeth “Betty” Carr’s public comments at City Council’s Oct. 26 meeting. At the meeting, Carr asked city leaders to reconsider its decision to build a new police station on the Alva Place parking lot.

Since then, although no formal meeting between farmers’ market board members and City Council has taken place, the open dialogue that Carr was hoping for has come in the form of remarks on the website of The Batavian and its Facebook page.

On one side, there is City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. consistently stating the municipality’s position that since the city already owns the Alva Place lot – which was deemed the No. 2 choice by a police facility task force that met in 2015 – erecting a new police facility there would result in a significant cost savings.

The first choice, a parcel on Swan Street, was not a city-owned property. When city leaders inquired about its availability, they were told it was not for sale.

While no official budgetary figures have been released (that will happen at the conclusion of the feasibility study by Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville), previous cost estimates were in the $9 million to $12 million range. City officials are hopeful that the building they are proposing will cost less than that based on similar completed projects in the Town of Clarence and Town of Greece.

Jankowski: City Saves Money as Property Owner

“Here’s the thing about the farmers’ market,” Jankowski said. “We’re saving $500,000 by building the station on our own property. The farmers’ market manager in her emails and in her comments on Facebook, which some of them were out of line, is expecting us to just give them a $500,000 value or more lot in the middle of town. We’ve already been given a walkability study that says we have too many parking lots. Those lots were designed for buildings to be put there.”

Jankowski said Carr is advocating for the city give to the market taxpayer-funded property at no charge.

“And I don’t know who is going to pay for the building they want to put on there. I’m thinking she expects the city to pay for the building as well,” he said. “She wants us to build and give her a piece of property, and then we need to go buy another piece of property, take that off the tax rolls and build our police station on some third, fourth or fifth choice that we can come up with so she can have the farmers’ market there.”

On the other side is Carr, who said she is simply looking for City Council to allow directors of the farmers’ market to present pertinent information about the markets’ customer base and nutritional needs in an era of COVID-19.

“Mr. Jankowski says we are taking a hard line? The only hard line is that this was dictated to us,” she said. “We were never in agreement and we were never asked to have a conversation. We were told from day one that we would have to move.”

Carr said that Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski informed market officials that they could stay in their current location through 2021.

“It always was with the intent that we would have to move, which is why I spoke in front of City Council and asked for open dialogue, so we could talk about this,” Carr said. “And I was shocked at how Mr. Jankowski handled himself the next day. He printed lies. He said that we’re trying to steal property from the city and that we were already in agreement to this move.”

Carr Takes Exception to Facebook Post

She also said that Jankowski insulted (Farmers’ Market Treasurer) Sharon Brent, posting a Facebook comment that read “How can anyone buy from this woman?”

“We have no idea how that has hurt her business, and she has been in her business for 45 years,” Carr said.

A review of the numerous statements on The Batavian’s Facebook page reveals that Jankowski’s actual post was as follows: “The market is now demanding the city turn over that property to them for permanent use for free. It’s very disappointing that the market is trying to steal a piece of property from the taxpayers valued at over $500,000. After this behavior who would want to do business with them at this point?”

Carr admitted that the farmers’ market has no right to dictate city policy, but at least should be respected enough -- considering that it does bring people and revenue to Batavia – to be invited to the table to talk about its fate.

“The city has never had any conversation with us,” she said. “We are a bunch of farmers. I’m new to the market. Who are we to say we want the city to build a building for us? Who is saying that? We are not.”

As far as the feasibility study is concerned, Public Works Director Matt Worth said he has sent utility and survey information, and boundaries and dimensions of the Alva Place lot to the architectural firm, while architects have made some on-site visits and are reviewing operations of the existing police facility – the 165-year-old former Brisbane Mansion at 10 W. Main St.

“We’re pretty much on the front end of it. We’re in the information gathering process, I would say at this point,” said Worth, who expects the study to take another six months or so.

Worth: Feasibility Study is Determining Factor

Worth said the feasibility study will determine the configuration of the facility – one- or two-story, shape, provisions for parking, etc. – and is anticipating a price point that fits within the city’s plans to finance it over a 20- to 30-year period.

“We’ll have a really good idea once this is done. The original task force numbers were very conceptual and we didn’t have a lot of confidence that it was going to be that costly,” he said. “And that’s really where we made the connection with Architecture Unlimited. They were involved with a state police/sheriff’s facility that was built in the Town of Clarence, and so we were able to get some numbers that they had for that as well as the new police facility that was built in the Town of Greece.

“Looking at those and how the building could be configured, it became apparent that it seemed like it could be done for quite a bit less than that and make it more affordable.”

Worth said the feasibility study is costing the city $41,200.

Carr, when advised that the feasibility study was underway, said that was “new information” to her and questioned if Batavia residents were on board with such a long-term financial commitment.

“I’m not sure if the citizens want a police station there or if they really want a police station,” she offered. “It could be that citizens want to revisit how they’re tax dollars are to be used … and judging from comments on Facebook and The Batavian comments, about the location of the police department and if it is necessary.”

She then asked how city leaders set their priorities.

“Then I would ask of the city, during this feasibility study, what’s their measurement of success? In other words, who are they serving? Are they going to do something that’s going to ... how do they determine what best serves the citizens? They’ve got the farmers’ market.”

Would Relocation Affect Business?

Carr did agree that the current police headquarters is inadequate, but said that placing a new one would on the Alva Place lot would devastate the farmers’ market.

“If the market moved to Angotti’s (Beverage Corp.) parking lot on School Street … well, 73 percent of our customers walk or bike and (right now) no one crosses Main Street or Ellicott Street. You might as well put us on an island, all by ourselves,” she said.

“Seventy-three percent of our customers may not come because they’d have to cross those busy streets. Senior citizens with their walkers and motorized scooters – they’re not going to cross those busy streets. And we’d be that much farther removed from other customers we currently serve, such as the employees of the hospital and the YMCA.”

Jankowski said a new headquarters for the Batavia Police Department is long overdue.

“The facility is not proper right now – we know that – and it’s falling apart,” he said. “We need a building on our own property and we need a building where we can save money.”

The retired City of Batavia police officer then pointed out some of the problems with the current police station.

“Who is going to benefit from it? People in the community that are arrested. They’ll have a better facility to be housed in temporarily when they’re interviewed – in a proper area,” Jankowski said. “Evidence will be stored in a proper safe facility and not contaminating people with the fumes coming off it. You’ve got blood evidence, you’ve got drug evidence. That stuff is locked in an old safe now; there’s no ventilation in there. When those guys (police officers) walk in there, they’re taking a breath and inhaling that stuff. It can’t be healthy.”

Current Police Station is Lacking

Jankowski said the city has to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

“We’re not making this stuff up,” he said. “When you’re a victim of a crime or domestic abuse, we have a safe place to go and you’re not being yelled at by your abuser because you’re in the same room and there’s a door there and he’s yelling through the window at you.”

The council president said he has received no complaints from the public until “Ms. Carr gets hired by the farmers’ market and now she is demanding that we turn over this lot to them at no charge and create a permanent place for the market.”

“I love the market … but nobody said it was a permanent deal. It was land that was not being used and we said, ‘Sure, you can use it temporarily.’ I do know that when they were moved there, it was not my impression that they were moved there permanently.”

Jankowski said the city would like to help them find another location, preferably close to downtown. He also said the farmers’ market has the option to purchase city-owned property at the fair market rate and erect its own structure, adding that nonprofits such as Genesee/Orleans Council on Substance Abuse and Alcoholism and YMCA invest their own money to construct their own buildings.

He suggested moving it behind the YMCA.

“They’re going to be having a big wellness thing there (Healthy Living campus) and maybe the best place is to move across the street and be right behind the Y,” he said. “We’re trying to help them find a location, but from what I’m told, they want the place they’re at now and nothing we offer is acceptable to them at this point. Personally, the way they’re acting, I have lost interest in the farmers’ market being there even another year.”

Who are the Bullies in This Situation?

While Jankowski contends the farmers’ market is trying to “bully” the city, Carr said it is the other way around.

“We are being bullies by asking for conversation? A bully is someone who dictates terms and that’s what the city is doing to us. We’re in a totally reactive position. We have no clout,” she said.

Carr said she seeks to inform Council members of information that needs to be considered.

“I’m bringing to their attention a New York State Field & Fork survey that shows groundswell that that area is the perfect location for the market – as 73 percent of the customers are able to walk and bike (to get there),” she said. “In addition, in 2018 across the nation was the beginning of a movement (that) everyone wants more local produce from their farmers’ markets. And just recently, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) issued an RFI (request for information) stating that by the year 2050, 40 percent of all locally grown produce must come from locally grown in order to reduce the carbon footprint by 50 percent.”

She also said that people need to be educated on the relationship between COVID-19 and healthy eating.

“How can you make decisions with such game-changing facts in front of you based on data that’s five years out of date?” she asked. “COVID is the game-changer here. It’s a known fact that eating more produce increases your immunity and it’s from only your locally grown produce where you get optimal nutrition. These changes are taking place and they have been going on for quite a while and you’ve missed this data.”

Carr said directors of the farmers’ market plan to meet on Nov. 16 to discuss their options, mentioning that she has reached out to Congressman Chris Jacobs to see if he could assist in helping them to locate some funding independent of the city.

“As far as the farmers’ market and the reception that the farmers’ market received, including Mr. Jankowski slamming our lead farmer, why wouldn’t we just pack up and move to Batavia Downs or get someone to underwrite us and go elsewhere?” she asked. “What’s the point in staying Downtown because the city doesn’t want us there? They’ve been kicking us around, year to year, going on the 12th time in the course of 15 years, without conversation. Does that seem right?”

Previously: Farmers' market treasurer provides information in response to City Council's queries

Previously: Farmers' Market manager asks Council to reconsider placing new police station on Alva Place lot

Previously: Placement of 'nomadic' Genesee Country Farmers' Market is up in the air once more

October 28, 2020 - 8:56am

While unable to match the specific years with the locations, Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Treasurer Sharon Brent on Tuesday confirmed that the operation featuring the “fruits” of local growers’ and merchants’ labor has been quite nomadic over the past decade and a half.

Brent, asked to comment on Market Manager Elizabeth Carr’s assertion that the market has moved 11 times in 15 years, fired off close to that many sites -- and agreed with Carr, who spoke at Monday night's Batavia City Council meeting, that moving around so much is counterproductive.

“We were out at the (Batavia) Downs and at Kmart for quite a few years. While we have been under the city’s (oversight), we were moved 11 times in 15 years. I have been to every single spot they’ve moved us to,” said Brent, a Middleport resident who owns Schwab Farm Market in Gasport.

The list of farmers’ market locations, according to Brent, include next to the “kiddie stand” at Batavia Downs (for years), the Kmart parking lot, Batavia Downs parking lot, the Alva Place parking lot (previously), the former Super Duper site next to Washington Towers, the parking lot where Wendy’s Restaurant now sits, the Angotti Beverage parking lot and in a lot behind the Genesee County Courts Facility.

“We used to be in this (Alva Place) parking lot when we had an afternoon market that was from noon to 6 p.m.,” she said. “Since then we’ve moved all around the city … and you don’t build a market that way.”

And Brent echoed Carr’s hope that City Council would keep the farmers’ market at its current location: the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street.

“Of all the places we have been in the city, other than where Wendy’s is right now, this is the best spot we’ve been at – as far as customers liking it, parking, traffic, everything,” she said.

Brent said she wasn’t about “to buck” the city but said she’s talked to many residents who “can’t believe they want to put a police station here.”

When asked if the farmers’ market carried any weight into City Council decisions, considering it uses the parking lot at no charge, she said her organization was not given an opportunity for input.

“We were told this is where the police station is going to be,” she said. “Did they ask us if we wanted it to be here? No. I don’t live in the city, but I can see that they want you to play nice.”

She said that city residents should have a say in the matter, something that City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said has happened by virtue of a police facility task force that convened in 2015.

“We set up a police building committee years ago of citizens of the community and we left them alone to make recommendations. They recommended a Swan Street location and the second choice was Alva Place parking lot,” he said. “The first choice fell through as the owners didn’t want to sell it to us, so the second location on that list was Alva Place.”

Jankowski said City Council is following the task force’s recommendations.

“It’s property we already own … and we will need it in another year or so when we start construction on that building,” he added. “City Council makes the executive decisions and run the City of Batavia through the city manager. If they have a problem, contact City Council.”

Jankowski said he is disappointed in the farmers’ market stance.

“We notified everybody and the time to make mention of it was several months ago before we expended a lot of resources into that direction (a feasibility study) to put the police department there,” he said. “Even so, it’s a public safety building, it’s public property that we own, and we allow the market to have an event there every year. They fill out an event application and it gets approved because the lot is not being used right now.”

He said he didn’t think there were any promises made to the market, adding that its attempt to attract a Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant fell through.

The thought of the city veering off the course of placing the new police headquarters on the Alva Place parking lot is not a good idea, Jankowski said.

“If we had to spend $500,000 for a (privately owned) building lot, that would reduce the amount of money available for the building itself,” he said.

Jankowski said the city has offered to help the farmers’ market find a suitable permanent location, and welcomes the conversation.

“I think it’s actually a good thing that we’re having this conversation because it tells me that our downtown is thriving and it tells me that property in our downtown is at a premium and that people want it because it is a good thing,” he offered. “But I think the farmers’ market is a little out of line because they have been getting the use of that property at no cost and now we need the property for a public safety building and now they’re upset about it.”

Brent said if the market has to move again, she hopes that the location is in the center of the city and “not off the beaten path.”

A call to Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, for comment on the BID’s role in the future of the farmers’ market was not returned at the time of the posting of this story. Kemp also sits on the Genesee Country Farmers' Market Board of Directors.

The 2020 farmers’ market season opened on June 5 and the three-day operation (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday) concludes this week.

October 26, 2020 - 9:30pm

Speaking on behalf of the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market, Batavian Elizabeth “Betty” Carr tonight asked City Council to rethink its position on placing a new police headquarters on the Alva Place parking lot, proposed action that would force the market to – once again – find a new location.

“I’m here tonight to ask for your help. I’d like to find a path forward to keep the market at the current site, so I’m here to ask your guidance and consideration to agreeing that the police department should find a different home,” said Carr, manager of the downtown seasonal operation, during Council's Conference Meeting at City Centre Council Board Room.

Carr mentioned that the market has moved 11 times in the past 15 years and that it takes at least two years “to ramp back up to full capacity.”

Stating that she is “excited” to live in Batavia, Carr said she wants to help Batavia craft its “ideal market, which I see as a diamond in the rough.”

“I can help build strategic relationships and garner fresh funds. I’m asking each of you for open dialogue so we can work collaboratively together on this,” she said.

Carr also spoke about two New York State food stamp programs that are helping the farmers’ market gain new customers and helping residents -- especially those with low incomes -- buy fresh produce and other homemade items while stretching their food dollars.

“Each of you has in front of you survey results from Field & Fork Network, which is a New York State food stamp program,” she said to the council members. “Field & Fork is trending for doubling, even tripling, some numbers this year. These results show that 73 percent of our customers walk or bike to the market, including senior citizens who enjoy their independence by shopping at the market – using their walkers and motorized scooters.”

She said that food stamp recipients come to the market’s information booth where Carr electronically removes money from their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and gives them silver coins for fruits and vegetables only and wood coins for produce and everything else being sold.

The “everything else” items include meat, cheese, bread, honey, maple syrup, olive oil, flavored vinegar, baked goods, canned goods and jams and jellies, she said.

Carr also informed the board about the “Double Up Food Bucks” program that matches up to $20 a day so EBT customers can afford to buy produce.

“The wins are threefold,” she said. “Low income folks are eating better. Our local farmers are gaining new customers and they keep more money. The best part is our food dollars are staying in the region.”

She maintained that moving the market would hurt Batavia.

“Frankly, your farmers are weary of rebuilding from scratch,” she said. “Will you provide the guidance and help make the corner of Alva Place and Bank Street the market’s forever home?”

While no council member addressed her comments during the meeting, afterward Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said he was surprised by Carr’s position on the proposed location of a new police station.

“We did a feasibility study on that lot months ago and at that time we notified the mall (merchants), BID (Business Improvement District) people and the farmers’ market – making sure we didn’t affect the mall’s parking spaces – and apparently everyone was on board until tonight,” he said. "We even said we would help the market find a new place."

Jankowski said city officials looked into a few privately owned locations in the city and found that the going rate to purchase those parcels was around $500,000.

“It makes more sense to put the building on city properly centrally located, which is what most people are calling for,” he said. "We save $500,000 right off the bat, the location makes it easy for police officers to access and is not on either side of the city.”

May 11, 2020 - 10:49pm

The Genesee Country Farmers Market Inc. suddenly has become quite a lightning rod for discussion at Batavia City Council meetings.

City Council tonight gave its go-ahead for the market to conduct business again this year at the east side of the parking lot on Alva Place and Bank Street, but not before a 25-minute debate that focused on the practice of allowing food truck vendors to conduct business on the market grounds and at other downtown locations.

Council members, at their April 27th meeting, tabled the nonprofit’s application to operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 5 through Oct. 30, citing the need for clarification of the organization’s address and financial arrangement.

The next day, Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, which supports the GCFM, provided an email from Sharon Brent, the market’s treasurer, which appeared to answer Council’s questions.

Fast forwarding to tonight, several Council members brought up other issues concerning the market, with the subject of food trucks dominating the talking points.

“I don’t know if any of you have received any comments from local restaurateurs but I have in the past in regard to the food vendors that are allowed to come into the farm market and sell food there as far as prepared food like the food truck, things of that nature,” John Canale said. “Some of our restaurants that are in the BID district are concerned that these people are coming in and they’re able to sell food at lunch time, which is actually taking away lunch business from a lot of our downtown restaurateurs.”

Canale said restaurant owners, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, are “fighting for business” and food trucks will just make it that much more difficult for them. He went on to say that the farmers’ market is “a wonderful thing” but still called for eliminating food vending trucks at the market.

Robert Bialkowski then asked a series of questions about the farmers’ market operation – How much of the parking lot can they use, what does the $50 membership fee cover, who is the president and vice president, and how much is spent on advertising?

He also suggested that Council should treat event applications in the same way they do resolutions.

“I really feel that we should handle it like any other business item,” he said. “If we all agree to move it from conference to business, then at the business meeting we would vote on it. That’s just my personal opinion."

City Attorney George Van Nest said he was of the opinion that Council might be imposing stricter requirements upon the farmers’ market compared to other requests.

“Traditionally, it’s been a situation where the City has looked at a limited set of information,” he said. “I just have a slight concern that we’re going fairly far afield here for a particular event application and treating this one a little differently than we would other event applications.”

The conversation returned to food trucks with Council President Eugene Jankowski mentioning that he received an email from Kemp on March 11th asking about the possibility of restricting food trucks from downtown on specific days of the week -- with the exception of the farmers’ market. He shared news that Buffalo and Rochester have recently passed a measure designed to limit food trucks parking near restaurants.

After Rose Mary Christian noted that food trucks have to pay sales tax, Jankowski suggested putting the issue back into the BID’s hands.

“That to me would be more of an internal BID issue than it is for Council to get involved,” he said. “These (applications) are a way to give us a heads-up so that we can provide a service to all the people who are going to be there as well as the community to make sure that we’re not conflicting … that we’re not blocking their progress.”

Canale agreed that the matter should be handled through the BID.

“I think it’s a matter of the BID realizing that a lot of these downtown restaurants are challenged by having more food vendors come downtown and be able to sell food downtown at the lunch hour that aren’t having to pay the BID assessment (as well as property taxes),” he said.

Patti Pacino, who along with City Manager Martin Moore serves on the BID board, said “if these owners are concerned, I’d rather they take it to the BID board than try to take it to City Council, because we’re only going to turn around and take it back to the BID board.”

Jankowski then suggested that Moore contact Kemp to define the areas of concern and discuss it again at a future Council meeting.

“Maybe (we need to) modify the City Code for the food vendor truck to not be right in the middle of the BID area where they’re paying taxes or the assessment, and on top of that, they’re parking right in front of a restaurant,” he said.

That prompted a sharp response from Christian.

“Actually, it’s called competition. Center Street Smoke House has a food truck and he’s all over. He not only pays sales tax but he pays property tax …,” she said. “I think you’re opening up Pandora’s Box if you decide to do this. Like I said, it is competition and I know about the food truck because I had the first one in Batavia.”

She added that the City could face a lawsuit “if you’re going to continue on with this nonsense.”

“Nobody makes anyone go to those trucks; nobody makes anyone go to a restaurant. It’s a choice – freedom of choice,” she said, prompting Al McGinnis to respond in agreement.

"We should stay out of it," he said. "I think Rose Mary is right.”

In the end, Council approved the application but instructed Moore and Pacino to address Kemp’s email as a courtesy to the BID, an entity with close ties to the City.

April 28, 2020 - 11:38am

The treasurer of Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Inc., has responded quickly to the Batavia City Council’s request for more information about the organization as it looks to operate the market at the Alva Place parking lot beginning in June.

GCFM Treasurer Sharon Brent, of Schwab Farm Market in Gasport, sent an email to City Council this morning after being advised by Beth Kemp, director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, of issues that arose at Monday night’s Council meeting and were reported on The Batavian.

Brent wrote that she has been treasurer of the corporation for 15 years and uses the mailing address of P.O. Box 303, Gasport, NY, 14067 because that is the post office closest to her residence. She also said that the previous treasurer lived in Oakfield, and that’s why an Oakfield mailing address was listed.

She said all money collected from “stall rent” is used to pay a market manager, advertising, supplies, permits, postage and insurance.

Total income in 2018 was $28,526.65 and expenses were $27,406.32, leaving a net income of $1,120.33.

In 2019, the numbers were $25,857.05 and $25,946.05 for a net loss of $89.

“Any profits stay with the corporation and are used the next year for more advertising or other increased costs or saved for unknown expenses in the future,” she wrote, adding that the GCFM files IRS form 1120 each year.

Brent also pointed out changes in the operation of farmers’ markets this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic as issued by the state Department of Agriculture.

The current requirements are:

-- No forms of entertainment; no cooking demonstrations or sampling; no craft or non-food vendors, except soap or hand sanitizer; space out vendors as much as possible; minimize amount of food on display with customer access; increase the number of handwashing stations and make hand sanitizer available.

-- Manage customer traffic within the market to eliminate congregating and to promote social distancing. At this time masks must be worn by vendors and customers if social distancing cannot be kept.

-- Prepackage raw agricultural products such as apples, potatoes, onions, etc. to the extent possible. All baked goods must be prepackaged.

Brent wrote that board members are working on how to implement these guidelines and any changes that come.

The market is scheduled to be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 5 through Oct. 30.

May 20, 2019 - 2:13pm

Press release:

The Genesee Country Farmers' Market @ The Downtown Batavia Public Market opens for the season on Friday, June 7th, at the market's location on the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place in the Downtown Batavia Business District.

Market hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays with the season running from Friday, June 7th, through Friday, Oct. 25th.

"This year marks the fourth year of collaboration with BID (Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District)", says Market Manager Mike Bakos, "The Market will remain a three-day per week 'Grow-Your-Own' market, featuring the freshest locally-grown produce along with unique specialty items from local artisans.

"Vendors are excited about the upcoming market season with many of last year's vendors returning along with some new additions. The market will once again participate in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), DUFB (Double-Up Food Bucks), NYS FreshConnect, WIC and Senior Farmer's Market Check Programs. Stop by and talk directly to the people that grow your food."

The market is committed to its Mission of "providing a family-friendly environment where the residents of the Greater-Batavia area and Genesee County can shop for fresh, locally-grown, produce and specialty artisanal items" -- and its Vision of "making the Genesee Country Farmers' Market @ The Downtown Batavia Public Market a WNY Destination."

Parties interested in joining the market to become a Seasonal Vendor or Day Vendor may contact Sharon Brent at (716)-560-0853 or by email at [email protected] or Mike Bakos at (716) 866-4958 or by email at [email protected].

Qualifying charities, service-groups, or 501c3 organizations that would like to participate in the market may obtain a FREE market stall by contacting the market at (716) 866-4958 or by email at [email protected].

November 12, 2018 - 2:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in Genesee Country Farmers' Market, batavia, news, business.

Press release from Mike Bakos, manager, Genesee Country Farmers' Market:

On behalf of the members of the Genesee Country Farmers' Market, I would like to thank everyone that supported this year's Market -- the City of Batavia, the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District (BID), our 2018 market sponsors, our market vendors, and of course, our loyal customers.

The Market, located at the Downtown Batavia Public Market, on the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place, was, once again, able to sustain a three-day/week market schedule being open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., from mid-June through the end of October.

This year marked the third year of collaboration with the BID. The popular Friday "BIG" Market continues to grow and receive inquiries from new vendors interested in joining the Market.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 people visited the Market each week, bringing 30,000 to 40,000 market customers into the Downtown Batavia Business District over the 20-week market season.

During the off-season, the Market will be pursuing new/prospective vendors with a goal of growing/enhancing the upcoming 2019 Market.

Please know that the Market is committed to our Mission of "providing a family-friendly environment where the residents of the Greater-Batavia area and Genesee County can shop for fresh, locally grown, produce and specialty artisanal items" -- and our Vision of "making the Genesee Country Farmers' Market @ The Downtown Batavia Public Market a WNY Destination."

Comments/inquiries regarding the Market are welcomed by emailing [email protected].

We wish you a wonderful and safe holiday season. Hoping to see you next June.

May 31, 2018 - 11:59am

Press release:

The Genesee Country Farmers' Market located at the Downtown Batavia Public Market opens for the season on Friday, June 8th, at the market's location on the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place.

Market hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with the season running from Friday, June 8th, through Friday, Oct. 26th.

"This year marks the third year of collaboration with BID (Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District)," says Market Manager Mike Bakos. "The Market will remain a three-day per week "Grow-Your-Own" market featuring the freshest locally grown produce along with unique specialty items from local farms and artisans.

"Vendors are excited about the upcoming market season with many of last year's vendors returning along with some new additions. The market will once again participate in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), NYS FreshConnect, WIC and Senior Farmer's Market Check Programs. Stop by and talk directly to the people that grow your food."

Parties interested in joining the market to become a Seasonal Vendor or Day Vendor may contact Sharon Brent at (716)-560-0853 or by email at [email protected] or Mike Bakos at (716) 866-4958 or by email at [email protected].

Qualifying charities, service-groups, or 501c3 organizations that would like to participate in the market may obtain a "FREE" market stall by contacting the market at (716) 866-4958 or by email at [email protected].

July 16, 2011 - 9:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, food, Genesee Country Farmers' Market.

We've come into that part of the season where there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables at the local farmers markets. Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by the Genesee Country Farmers' Market at Batavia Downs and took a few pictures.

The market is open Tuesdays and Fridays.

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