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The last days of the Fulton Fish Market

The Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium, the Brooklyn Bridge: all New York landmarks. New York City wouldn’t be the same without them.  But there’s one New York institution that predates them all by decades: The Fulton Fish Market.
/ Source: NBC News

The Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium and the Brooklyn Bridge are all New York landmarks without which New York City wouldn’t be the same. But there’s one New York icon that predates them all by decades: The Fulton Fish Market.

If New York is "The city that never sleeps," Fulton Fish Market is the place. At 2 a.m. in Lower Manhattan, it’s still bustling, and there’s still work for fishmongers to do.

But the market, which hasn't changed much in 170 years, is about to leave the wharf of the East River. At least that’s the plan.

Eddie Monani, a third-generation fishmonger, isn’t convinced. "When I came down here in 1969, my dad said, ‘Don’t get too comfortable’ because we’re moving to the Bronx," he says. "That was 36 years ago."

The open-air market is a relic, the ice used doesn’t meet health standards, and the real estate is too valuable for smelly fish. Still, after 15 years of going there at 3 a.m., Manhattan Oyster Bar chef Sandy Ingber likes the place. “This is really an institution down here,” he says.

So where’s the fish market going to go?  To the Bronx, to a building as long as the Empire State Building is tall. Inside, the facility is always going to be a cool 45 degrees — which is good for the fish.

But the Fulton Fish Market, to "Big Ray" Perry, is urban grit with an amazing view. "You come down here, you want to work, you’ll go to work. Its beautiful. There’s a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, with a beautiful sunrise," he says.

“We’ll all feel a little special nostalgia when the fish market closes because this is a touch of authentic New York,” says historian Ken Jackson.

Nostalgia, most say, is for tourists.  But when "Big Ray" and the others leave for the Bronx, the aroma of Fulton street will linger — a ghostly reminder of the catch that finally got away.