City strangles stadium flea market

September 24, 1992

It seemed like a deal that would benefit everyone.

After the long-running Edmondson Drive-In flea market ended, a promoter approached Baltimore City to have a similar weekend event held at the now-vacant Memorial Stadium.

He consulted neighborhood groups and won their support for the idea. For 16 weekends this spring and summer a market was held on a parking lot along 33rd Street. It drew thousands of shoppers, up to 300 vendors and reportedly netted $2,000 a week to the cash-starved city.

Last week, the popular flea market was suddenly canceled. The city pulled its permit without any advance notice to the public.

"The event has grown to such proportions that the overflow parking by the public has encroached deeply onto the surrounding residential streets, preventing residents reasonable access to their own homes," Marlyn J. Perritt, director of the city Department of Recreation and Parks said in a letter to promoter Jay Harris.

Vendors puzzled by the hasty action suspected that Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, who lives directly across from center field on 36th Street, had something to with the permit denial.

"It started out small and manageable but it didn't work," Mr. Cunningham said of the flea market. He explained he got "more and more complaints" from area residents, who objected to the volume of traffic, trash and the noises generated by vendors setting up as early as 5:30 a.m.

We're not fully persuaded that parking and noise are the real issues here. Having lost the Orioles, stadium area residents simply do not want any more crowd events in their neighborhood. Mr. Cunningham himself acknowledges he would rather see the event moved away from his district to the parking lot of Poly-Western High School.

Mr. Harris has now suggested transferring the flea market across 33rd Street to a parking lot adjacent to the former Eastern High School. City recreation officials seem squeamish.

During the past year, Baltimore City officials have become increasingly hostile toward privately sponsored weekend events, pulling permits and altering their conditions at the last minute.

The flea market is the latest example of this attitude. At a time when the city needs all the psychological crutches it can find to combat a sentiment of gloom and doom, municipal bureaucrats seem to want to kill everything that makes Baltimoreans feel good about their city.

In recent years flea markets have become events that draw people from throughout the region. We urge the parks officials to give the stadium flea market a new lease on life. The city surely could use all the money it generated each week.

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