Barry Benepe

In 1976, the post-World War II habits of supermarket shopping still ruled American kitchens. Fresh fruits and vegetables were limited to summertime roadside stands. To most urban dwellers, farmers were distant exotic creatures. It would be decades before words like local, seasonal, and organic became commonplace. Brought to life by Architect Barry Benepe and urban planner Robert Lewis, the Greemarket movement was a major development that helped to change that way of thinking. This movement initiated consumer appreciation—and eventually demand for—fresh food. At the time, Benepe was the director of his own small firm and therefore not bound by traditional notions of architectural practice, allowing him to expand into unorthodox areas such as open space protection and farmland preservation. Lewis applied for a job at his firm. Together they saw the disconnect between the food to which New Yorkers had access in standard supermarkets, and the much fresher, higher quality food produced by area farmers—and the possibility of bringing the two together. When they located an unused and vacant city lot behind Bloomingdales on Manhattan's Upper East Side, they jumpstarted the New York City Greenmarket movement.