Vendors oppose new street fair rules

Vendors Storm Hearing Opposed to 2017 Rule Changes

By Michelle Deal Winfield                                                                                                                               Photos by: Anthony J. Finkel

On Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 10 a.m., the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management (CECM) and Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO), held a hearing to afford the community an opportunity to comment on proposed new 2017 street fair rules. At first glance, it appeared to be chaotic with hundreds of people, seated, standing and the extra room equipped with a monitor and sound system was overfilled too. There were 89 people who signed up to speak. Their supporters cheering until quieted by the staff, were reminded the speakers’ 3 minutes time limit would include applause. Wally Rubin, District Manager, Community Board (CB) Five M, supported the committee’s rule changes of reducing the number of street fairs to only 10 fairs a year in a Community Board area. Mr. Rubin stressed there was a lot of congestion in the Times Square area due to street fairs blocking the streets. The crowd booed.

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Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer testifying.  Photo: by Anthony J. Finkel

Fred Arcaro, a resident from Community Board Six M, on the eastside, opposed the new rules stating, he volunteered with two organizations: the Manhattan East Community Association, MECA in Murray Hill and the 17th Police Precinct Council. The MECA used funds from the street fairs to beautify the neighborhood by planting flowers. The 17th Police Precinct Council’s only source of funding came from the street fairs and supports the Night Out Against Crime, provides updates about how to protect yourself and honors police officers in the area. Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer, made her way to the front to provide an analysis of what was wrong with the new 2017 street proposals. Calmly, Hon. Brewer, enumerated:

  1. CECM/SAPO should postpone their decision and extend the deadline to allow the community to respond to the changes.
  2. Limiting the number to only 10 street fairs in one calendar year would reduce festival oversaturation but fails to accommodate the needs of our communities, such as Manhattan CB Six which has multiple one block fairs.
  3. A requirement of having 50 % local vendor participation in the fairs is unworkable. An ethnic festival features vendors coming from all over the region.
  4. The first come, first application does not consider annual fairs that have been established throughout our communities.
  5. Increased application fees would be a disadvantage to smaller not-for-profit organizations.

Norman Seigel, an attorney representing Mardi Gras Festival Productions. Inc., stated, “The 2017 street fair rules are discriminatory and capricious.”

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The room was overfilled with vendors. Photo by: Anthony J. Finkel

A host of vendors, majority of women and immigrants, recalled stories of how they had come to America searching for the American dream. Pleading, “I support my family as a vendor at the street fairs. I am an artist and cannot afford a brick and mortar store. Please don’t take my job.”

Joe Giovanni, Mardi Gras Festival Productions, refuted the claim that the street fairs caused the congestion in the Times Square area. “The gridlock was caused when the Times Square Alliance Bid closed off the Times Square area to cars.”

At the close of the meeting, it appeared 97 % testifying, were opposed to the new 2017 street fair rules proposed by the committee. To read the proposed rules visit nyc.gov/nycrules.  A deadline to respond to the new street fair rules has been extended to October 27, 2016. Send comments to: Website. You can submit comments to SAPO through the NYC rules Web site at www.nyc.gov/nycrules

  • Email. You can email written comments to saporules@cityhall.nyc.gov
  • Mail. You can mail written comments to Michael Paul Carey, Executive Director, Office of Citywide Coordination and Management, at 253 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, New York 10007. 
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