2016-11-16 / Features

OCECM To Re-evaluate Street Fair Rules

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

The Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination (OCECM) has announced it will delay proposed new rules governing street fairs.

More time was needed “to thoughtfully and thoroughly incorporate community feedback” from a public hearing on October 13, including a proposal to limit the number of street fairs.

The hearing, held in Lower Manhattan, resulted in a large turnout, where 75 speakers, including members of various community boards, business improvement districts (BIDs), street fair vendors and organizers spoke in almost unanimous opposition to the proposed changes, according to a November 9 New York Times report.

The proposed rules would impose a citywide limit of 200 street fairs each year with no more than 100 allowed in Manhattan and a limit of 20 for each of the 59 local community boards in the five boroughs, among other changes.

“After hearing public comments (OCECM) determined that more time was needed to thoughtfully and thoroughly incorporate community feedback into the city’s ambitious goals for a street festival process that is accessible to more New Yorkers and encourages more local participation in every corner of the city, while not overburdening communities that have historically hosted a large number of street festivals,” said Natalie Grybauskas, a spokesperson for the city on November 2.

OCECM has said it will reauthorize the moratorium on new permits for street fairs that has been in place since 2004.

“The City will now undergo the rules process for the extension of the moratorium to ensure that next year (the street fair permit process) proceeds as usual,” said Grybauskas.

Approximately 200 street fairs are to take place in 2016 with the majority located in Manhattan. OCECM found “high public interest” with “strong public support” for increasing neighborhood businesses at street fairs in boroughs outside Manhattan.

OCECM had also proposed a requirement that at least 50% of vendors participating in an event have a business or local presence within the same community board where the street fair occurs, but some civic and business groups have countered the 50% rule is unworkable and counter-productive for street fairs outside Manhattan.

A 50% local vendor requirement might work in Manhattan but could actually be harmful in some parts of Queens or the Bronx, according to Jonathan Bowles of the Center for an Urban Future.

The proposed new rules are rooted in traffic congestion caused by a high number of street fairs in three community boards located in Midtown Manhattan.

“This is the kind of issue that is solvable,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in the November 9 Times report. “But every entrance point was a challenge because nobody had talked to the stakeholders.”

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