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Barry Benepe

Biographical Note

In 1976, the post-World War II habits of supermarket shopping still ruled American kitchens. Fresh fruits and vegetables were limited to summertime roadside stands. To most urban dwellers, farmers were distant exotic creatures. It would be decades before words like local, seasonal, and organic became commonplace.

Brought to life by Architect Barry Benepe and urban planner Robert Lewis, the Greemarket movement was a major development that helped to change that way of thinking. This movement initiated consumer appreciation—and eventually demand for—fresh food.

At the time, Benepe was the director of his own small firm and therefore not bound by traditional notions of architectural practice, allowing him to expand into unorthodox areas such as open space protection and farmland preservation. Lewis applied for a job at his firm. Together they saw the disconnect between the food to which New Yorkers had access in standard supermarkets, and the much fresher, higher quality food produced by area farmers—and the possibility of bringing the two together. When they located an unused and vacant city lot behind Bloomingdales on Manhattan's Upper East Side, they jumpstarted the New York City Greenmarket movement.

In these interviews, Benepe talks about his childhood in New York and on a family farm in Maryland, his education, his early architectural practice, the start-up of the Greenmarkets and what followed. Today, the original market is one of 50 in all five boroughs and has served as a model for markets all over the country.

Access Points

Benepe, Adrian
Benepe, Barry
Conklin, William J.
Jacobs, Jane, 1916-2006
Lewis, Bob
McPhee, John, 1931-
Rossant, James S., 1928-2009
Weinberg, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1901-1974

Council on the Environment of New York City
New York (N.Y.). Dept. of Parks and Recreation
New York (N.Y.). Dept. of City Planning
Union Square Community Coalition

City planning
Community supported agriculture
Farm produce -- Marketing
Farmer's markets
Farmers -- New Jersey
Farmers -- New York (State)
Food industry and trade
High Line (New York, N.Y.)
Historic preservation
Local foods
Produce trade
Newcastle upon Tyne (England)
Newburgh (N.Y.)
Saugerties (N.Y.)
Union Square (New York, N.Y.)
Washington Square (New York, N.Y.)

Interview 1, June 25, 2010

Box: Electronic Records, E-records: MSS_309.ref9.1 (Material Type: electronic records)

Scope and Content

Running time: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Interview 2, July 13, 2010

Box: Electronic Records, E-records: MSS_309.ref10.1 (Material Type: electronic records)

Scope and Content

Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012