Chinese Lawyer Eyes a ‘Night Market’ in Queens

JOhn Wang (Screen shot from video on www.queensnightmarket.com)

John Wang (Screenshot from Queens Night Market video)

Imagine shopping for crafts and eating snacks at a night market under the starry sky in Queens. If John Wang can realize his dream, this may no longer be a dream for the rest of us.

The 33-year-old Chinese-American lawyer gave up his highly paid job two years ago to travel around the world. He fell in love with the night markets selling snacks and crafts that are so popular in many Asian cities. These night markets, he observes, make the cities in which they are located so vibrant. When he came back to New York where he grew up, Wang started to contact city agencies and elected officials to push the idea of building the first “international night market” at Corona Park in Flushing. The market, mainly to promote snacks from different cultures, was registered as an online fundraising project and now has received donations from more than a hundred supporters.

Rendering of Queens Night Market (from www.queensnightmarket.com)

Rendering of Queens Night Market (from www.queensnightmarket.com)

Wang received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and received a law degree and an MBA from Yale University. His educational background helped him to get a coveted job that paid well. But he quit two years ago to pursue his dream.

Wang opened an account on Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative ideas, to raise money for the proposed Queens International Night Market. He hopes the market can be launched at the end of April in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The plan is to hold the market every Saturday night for half a year with at least 150 invited vendors each time as well as cultural performances. Wang hopes to raise $100,000 for the project, to be used to cover the fees for the permits, licenses, space and tent rental, and other related costs for the vendors. He would like to be able to offer subsidies to each vendor enough to cover half or one-third of their costs.

Wang first saw a night market in Taiwan when he traveled there with his family as a kid, and it impressed him. When traveling around the world as an adult, he found night markets are indeed popular in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and many other Asian countries. Many Latin American cities also have night markets. But in New York, although there are many daytime markets, there is no night market comparable to the ones in Asia.

“A market is a window to different cultures. The interaction among participants from different cultural backgrounds at a market is indeed a communication among different cultures,” said Wang. Queens, as the most diverse borough in New York, a cosmopolitan, international city, makes it the best place to open a night market.

The specific location Wang is eying is the space beside the New York Hall of Science at the park. The night market is slated to open from April 25 to October when, according to the plan, every Saturday night starting at 6 pm immigrant vendors will sell snacks from their own cultures such as crushed ice, steamed buns, momos, hand-pulled noodles and more.

So far, 134 supporters have made donations. [Editor’s note: As of March 16, the number had reached 155.]

To learn more about the project, go to its website: http://queensnightmarket.com

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