City holds off on plan to diversify street fairs after community groups fight local vendor rule

Community organizations who rely on revenue from street fairs had opposed the proposal to make it mandatory to have 50 percent of the vendors be local. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Community organizations who rely on revenue from street fairs had opposed the proposal to make it mandatory to have 50 percent of the vendors be local. (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

To the relief of a number of community organizations, the Mayor’s Office decided not to approve proposed new rules for street fairs for the upcoming year that would have required increased participation from local businesses. The proposal was aimed at sprinkling some local flavor into street fairs, which, despite where in the city they’re taking place, are often practically identical. The Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) of the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management (OCECM) announced on October 28 that it would be extending the existing moratorium on street fair applications through 2017. A public hearing on the proposed rule will be held this Friday.

The city had previously proposed new rules that, among other requirements, would require 50 percent of vendors participating in street fairs to be from within the community district boundaries of where the fairs were taking place. Another proposed rule would have decreased the number of fairs allowed in each community district per year from 18 to 10.

Community organizers were worried that the new regulation requiring increased participation from local vendors would affect their revenue because not enough local businesses would want to take part.

Carol Schachter, the vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, which holds annual street fairs, said that she was relieved about the moratorium. However, Keith Powers, chair of the Business Affairs and Street Activities committee for Community Board 6, warned at a recent meeting that the city would bring the issue up again at some point.

“We got our way this time and we’re delighted that so many organizations came around and did all this work but the fight isn’t over yet,” Schachter said.

In testimony to the OCECM earlier in October, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer called the 50 percent local vendor requirement “unworkable” because some festivals attract vendors from all over the city, and other local storefront vendors might not want to participate.

Brewer responded to the moratorium, noting that she supported the sentiment behind the mayor’s proposal but she felt it needed more work.

“Governing requires patience and a willingness to get things right, even if it takes a little longer,” she said. “That’s what the mayor is displaying here. The mayor’s proposal contained real positives, but it also contained real flaws and suffered from a one-size-fits-all approach. I’m confident that by working with residents, Community Boards, and neighborhood business associations, the mayor can craft a plan that achieves our shared goal of higher-quality street festivals that enhance communities without overburdening them.”

The public hearing will take place on December 2 at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room A at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on the 12th floor of 100 Church Street.

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