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.

Continue reading

CB5 hopes to curtail promotional events on plazas

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Since the city’s pedestrian plazas made their debut in 2009, along with being a peaceful destination for those seeking a place to sit outside – albeit inches from traffic — they’ve also become big business for companies looking to hawk products to passersby.

That ongoing commercialization of the public spaces is the source of some contention for representatives of Community Board 5, who, after hearing about a concert planned for the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza that’s expected to draw a crowd of 10,000, made their displeasure known to the mayor.

The event is planned for February 12 at the north plaza and will require setup for three days prior to it taking place.

This was the topic of discussion held at a CB5 Parks Committee meeting last Monday, according to Jack Taylor, a member of the committee who attended and said he was against it, and that the rest of his fellow members spoke against it as well.

“It stunned everybody,” said Taylor. “They are planning for an audience of 10,000 people largely in but overflowing from the pedestrian plaza on the west side of Madison Square Park. It’s very alarming and massive and if it’s as described or proposed, it’s going to be very hard for pedestrians and drivers and just about anyone in the district.”

Exactly a week after the meeting, CB5’s chair, Vikki Barbero, along with Clayton Smith, chair of the Parks and Public Spaces Committee, penned a letter to the mayor to ask why community boards don’t get any say in the arranging of such commercial events. Meanwhile the city’s Street Activity and Permit Office apparently has sole discretion.

“The Department of Transportation created the pedestrian plaza network and is the city agency responsible for their oversight,” wrote Barbero and Smith. “The area BIDs were chosen to activate, administer and protect these plazas. Why, then, has the Street Activity Permit Office been given the sole discretion to make final determinations of what special events are appropriate for these public spaces?”

Continue reading