One of the things I love about my Manhattan neighbourhood, Hell’s Kitchen, is its strong sense of self and its vibrant community. Take the kid’s Halloween Parade and neighbourhood party on Ninth Avenue and 47/48th street this weekend; the community garden barbeque held earlier this summer; the annual block garage sale on 43rd street; and the bi-annual toy and clothing exchange.

The latter never entered my consciousness until, of course, the organizing principle became relevant. This Sunday marks the second one I’ve attended and volunteered for. Think bazaar for babies and children, a medley of goods crammed onto rows of those institutional folding tables that grace so many church halls across the globe.

During trading hours you could easily imagine yourself in a one-room, western version of Istanbul’s Kapali Carsi — sans traders but with goods aplenty. Chaos appears to reign, but commerce manages to be conducted.

Living in close quarters, the sale makes both dollars and sense for everyone who participates — who has the space to keep something that isn’t useful? Add to it environmental consciousness and a communual-friendly attitude and you have a community of parents who are only too happy to sell their gently used goods and acquire others they need.

The sale has been an institution in the neighbourhood for more than 20 years, and going along with that, there are sellers who are in hot demand. Like “G”, who apparently has a selection of the best toys for boys; and “C”, who takes such good care of items that they return to the exchange for another cycle of usefulness.

If “it takes a village” to raise a child, then we’ve got a good start here in Hells’ Kitchen!

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