Flea Market Owners Under Investigation
By Miriam Rosenberg
After opening with lots of fanfare last Memorial Day weekend, and remaining open through the winter months, the Seaside Flea Market has been denied a renewal permit to continue operations for the upcoming season because its owners are under investigation for unspecified acts of mismanagement at the popular site.
New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation turned down the renewal application for the Seaside Flea Market, located on city property adjoining the beach from Beach 9 to Beach 17 Streets along Seagirt Boulevard.
"There is currently an investigation underway," said Abby Lootens, a spokesperson for the Parks Department, in an email to The Wave. "There are some allegations of mismanagement by the operator, but I cannot go into details due to the investigation."
While Lootens would not discuss the details, a former vendor, Renae Carr, an owner of an accessories business called "This and That," did not hesitate to discuss the business practices of flea market owner Alan Finchley and his associate Abby Feldman.
"We paid for 12 weeks and around the tenth week, we came, showed up and he told us no, he's not letting us in," said Carr, who added that Finchley tried to force them to commit to the full 26 weeks of the season. "He said he would let us in if we want to extend our stay. We told him we have a contract. He told us unless we renewed, we were not allowed entrance into the park."
Carr termed Finchley's actions "extortion" and she and those associated with her business refused to pay for the extra weeks.
In the meantime, she says Finchley refused to honor the remaining two weeks on the existing contract.
Carr continued by saying, "When the opportunity [to participate] came I thought it was a good thing for Rockaway, to sell wares in our own community, then they turned into such an ugly thing."
Roby Baranovitch, who for a time was a partner in the flea market, emailed The Wave, to allege several misdeeds [on the part of the owners].
"During the course of the partnership, it became obvious to me that Mr. Finchley was receiving cash payments from vendors of which no receipt was issued," said Baranovitch. "When confronted, I was told by him that it is better for us to disguise the gross income in order to misrepresent the 15% owed to the Parks Department and ultimately the IRS."
As to what happened with Carr, Baranovitch said, "Vendors paid for a period of time and were thrown [out] from the Flea market."
Baranovitch and Carr both claim that the vendors and members of the Rockaway community were victims of verbal abuse by Feldman and Finchley.
Despite leaving several messages in the past week to obtain comment from Finchley, The Wave's calls have not been returned.
In January, Finchley responded to emails Baranovitch sent to such organizations as The Wave, NYC Parks and Recreation and the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC) detailing problems at the flea market.
"Many of you have or will receive at least one extremely nasty communication from Mr. Roby Baranovitch. We apologize for his actions and any discomfort his words may have caused," said Finchley in his email. "His claims are untrue. This matter is in the hands of the police and our attorneys."
Feldman spoke with The Wave earlier this week and denies any knowledge of wrongdoing.
"I know nothing of [those] goings on," said Feldman, who added she was sad she would not be working with the people of Rockaway anymore.
"Personally, I love Rockaway and the people. Anything I did, or was involved in, was done with the best love, light and intentions."
RDRC, the organization that helped bring the flea market to the community, said that it was simply trying to help both the owners and the community by facilitating the flea market's entry into Rockaway.
"Seaside Flea Market was actually a client of RDRC's and we were trying to help their business grow, as we were the vendors - trying to help develop them into business owners," said Kevin Alexander, the executive director of RDRC. "We're very disappointed in the allegations and the fact there will not be a Seaside Flea Market [this summer]."
Alexander said RDRC believes there is a need for such a business in the area and the organization is currently inquiring with the Parks Department to take over the flea market.
Community Board 14 approved renewing the flea market's permit earlier this year.
"We had written a letter to support their application for renewal before we found out they were not being renewed," said Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for CB 14. "If there were any improprieties Parks has the right [to investigate]. Any allegations have to be investigated."