Oct. 21, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
Street fairs could be in limited supply next year.
The de Blasio administration is working to amend the rules governing street fairs that would restrict the number held in each community board district each year. Community Board 1, which represents Astoria, is opposed to the changes and is trying to fight back.
The new proposals would limit the number of street fairs throughout the city to 200, with Manhattan given priority for the first 100 fairs. The remaining 100 would be split among the four boroughs on a first come first served basis. The rules would not apply to block parties, however, which are in a different category.
The proposals have been put forward by the administration’s Citywide Event Coordination and Management office and a public hearing was recently held. If that office decides to make the changes they would kick in for 2017.
The new rules would also open up the availability of street fairs to anyone, without giving priority to annual fairs that have been running for years. Since 2004, the city’s Street Activity Permit Office has had a freeze on permits for new multi-day and single-day multi-block street fairs, while festivals that only take up one block for one day were allowed to seek new permits.
The new rules would also require at least 50 percent of the vendors to be local within the Community Board district, and would limit each organization to one festival per year.
The rules were proposed to help alleviate traffic problems caused by the many street fairs held throughout the year, specifically in Manhattan, and to relieve the burden placed on police resources.
However the new rules could prove highly problematic for many non-profit and religious institutions that rely on street fairs to raise money, as well as to vendors that make a living traveling between fairs, according to CB 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris.
“Not for profits and religious institutions that have built up festivals over the years rely on this money as part of their operating budget,” she said. “Our fear is that the new methodology would cause hardship to existing organizations running street fairs.”
Koulouris explained that the 50 percent local rule would also be hugely problematic to both those running the fairs and vendors. “You can’t force the participation of local businesses,” she said.
She added that many vendors live off of the money they make travelling between street fairs, and the 50 percent rule could shut them out of many festivals, leaving them without a steady source of income.
The rules would allow each Community Board district to hold up to 10 one day-one block festivals, and 10 multiday- multi block festivals, though each district is not guaranteed that many festivals.
Koulouris said that the CB 1 district holds approximately 22 street festivals each year, so the best-case scenario would be telling two non-profit institutions that they could not hold their festival. However due to the first-come, first-served nature of the system, it could actually limit the number of festivals in much greater numbers.
Community Board 1 sent a letter to the city against the new regulations, due to the hardships they could cause local residents.
The city held a public hearing on the new rules on October 13, and is allowing public comment on the new rules until next Monday, October 24 at http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/content/amendment-street-fair-permit-rules.
About 40 public comments have been posted online, though they are also accepted via email and were allowed at the hearing.
One commenter on the website noted that he planned to give his testimony at the public hearing, but was unable to do so due to long lines, indicating the high level of public interest in the new regulations.
Business owners in Forest Hills also began a petition protesting the new regulations, stating that the street festivals are important to garner attention to their businesses.