New lease on life sought for dilapidated Kitty Market

The western side of the Kitty Market. In 2013 the market was listed as a fire hazard by the Guyana Fire Service.

Vendors at the Kitty Market say they are fed up of the deteriorated condition of the historic structure and are hoping that the situation will be finally addressed.

For too long, the vendors say they have been complaining about the condition of the market and nothing has been done to fix it. They say they are confused about what is going to be done to the building: whether the Ministry of Public Infrastructure would demolish it or rehabilitate it.

When Stabroek News visited the market on Saturday there were hardly any merchants selling inside of the building. Mostly fruit and vegetables vendors lined the outside of the market, unaffected by the recent flooding.

Inside of the market, two clothes vendors were seen sanitizing their stalls from the floodwaters; there was hardly any lighting to navigate through the inside of the building.

Above, the ceiling was decaying while some sections were hanging. In 2013, the Guyana Fire Service had listed the market as one of the derelict buildings that is a fire hazard.

“The market gone from bad to worse. We can’t depend on this market for a livelihood,” one woman said. The reduction in sales at the market, due to its condition, has caused her to start selling part-time; yet, she still has to pay a full-month’s rent.

She said the market could be salvaged if maintenance works are carried out. “This is solid greenheart you are looking at, it could be saved,” she said.

One retail vendor stated that there are only four clothes vendors remaining in the market and one grocery stall; all the others, she said were shut down because of the sluggishness of the market.

“Business is slow because people are afraid to come inside and buy anything. Look, I could put out all of my clothes on showcase but that doesn’t mean I will get a sale. Some days I only make enough money to pay my passage home,” the vendor said. “The building old and any time it can collapse with we in here,” she added.

She complained that every time there is rain, the market would flood and their merchandise would be ruined. “When rain fall it carries a lot of damage,” she noted.

They should really see and do something to help us…the market needs to be repaired because we paying our rent up to date,” another vendor complained.

Presently, he stated that there are only ten vendors working full-time in the market.

Kitty Market Action Committee member Tacuma Ogunseye stated that the market is not a market anymore. “We are just here because many of us have been here for years and we are hoping that the market will be repaired at some time,” he said. “Basically, it’s a holding operation for vendors and from a business point of view we are not doing any business.”

Ogunseye said that the market is also vulnerable to theft. He said the security of the building is poor. He also indicated that there were some entrances that were closed off because they had collapsed and become a health-hazard for vendors and shoppers.

“It is the major columns of the structure that are keeping the building standing. If it wasn’t for the infrastructure it would have already collapsed,” he said.

Stabroek News was told that even though most of the stalls were closed, the council still receives money every month for rent. He said it is the hope of vendors that the building would be rehabilitated.

“It is a structurally sound building…one of the doors on the southern end has been out of use for over three years. Maybe what happening is that as the market starts to degenerate the idea becomes that if you can’t do something significant it’s best you don’t do nothing,” he added.

Mayor Hamilton Green told Stabroek News that the market was high on the agenda for issues that need be addressed between the government and the City Council. He said it is yet to be decided if the building would be demolished or rehabilitated, but it is being scrutinized by the “technical workers”.

Still, Green stated that it is the City Council‘s opinion that the market should be rehabilitated with the cooperation of the vendors. He noted further that the council has recently received an estimate to rehabilitate and they were preparing for meetings with the government.

“The market is among a number of weighty matters affecting the city. We are trying to get the city back to where it was long ago. For too long it has been on the verge of collapse,” he stated.

A source close to City Hall had told Stabroek News that about $80 million was expected to be injected into rehabilitation works at the market.

Presently, only a handful of vendors have remained. By midday, most of them would close their stalls and go home because of the sparse business. Only vendors lining the outside of the market would remain into the afternoon and at nights.

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