The historic Fulton Fish Market shut down in Lower Manhattan, leaving its waterfront site after more than 180 years for a new facility in the Bronx.
The market, the center of the city’s seafood industry, closed Friday. On Sunday night, workers move to the $85 million New Fulton Fish Market.
“Big guys ain’t supposed to cry, but a part of old New York is dying here today,” said Joey Centrone, one of the workers at the market. “I recognize this place is antiquated, but it’s a part of us.”
It opened on Feb. 5, 1822, as a meat and vegetable market, and eventually grew to a wholesale emporium handling about $1 billion worth of seafood a year.
For decades, the market was associated with organized crime, which controlled the unloading of trucks bringing fish to lower Manhattan.
City had cracked down on mob rule
It wasn’t until 1995 that the city moved to break the mob’s control at the fish market, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani booted six allegedly mob-controlled businesses. The city ultimately triumphed, but the mob-busting effort was greeted at the time with a retaliatory wildcat strike, death threats, vandalism and arson.
The move to the Bronx follows new U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules that all fish must be refrigerated indoors. At the old Fulton market, workers loaded and unloaded the fish outdoors, no matter what the weather. The new market will stay at a climate-controlled 41 degrees.
For many Fulton Fish Market employees, this was the only place they have ever worked. Some were second-generation fish seller, like Mark Rudes, whose father opened Beyer-Lightning 72 years ago. On Friday, he took down the sign with a tire iron as his wife and daughter took pictures.
“I thought this is the most disgusting place in the world,” said the 56-year-old Rudes. “But I fell in love that first day and I never left.”