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Low Prices and High Hopes at a Pop-Up Market on Randall’s Island

Low Prices and High Hopes at a Pop-Up Market on Randall’s Island

Since early October, an ecosystem of barbers, vendors and chefs has sprung up outside one of the city’s largest migrant shelters at Randall’s Island Athletic Field 83.

Photographs and Text by Sebastian Sele

Dec. 10, 2023

Dusk was falling on a chilly fall day on Randall’s Island and a small crowd of people from around the world were milling around New York City’s newest pop-up market. Latin music played as the day’s last shoppers bought their dinners and vendors began packing up their tables.

Then, everyone headed home, which for most was temporarily inside one of six giant white tents set up on a nearby soccer field.

As of the end of November, more than 66,000 migrants were staying in New York’s homeless shelters, which has pushed the city’s shelter population to a record high of more than 120,000. With the system far beyond its capacity, Mayor Eric Adams has asked the Biden administration to expedite permits to allow the new migrants to work.

But on Randall’s Island, migrants are taking their fate into their own hands. Since October, the market has grown from a couple of vendors into a bustling miniature economy outside one of the city’s largest homeless complexes.

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