Some possible changes to street festivals in the upcoming year include only 100 street festivals allowed in Manhattan and 100 street festivals for the other four boroughs combined, and groups will only be able to host one festival each year.
The Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) issues permits for street festivals, block parties, farmers markets and other events on city streets, sidewalks and pedestrian plazas.
Since 2004, the NYPD has asked SAPO each year to use their discretion to temporarily deny permits for additional multi-day and single-day multi-block street fairs because the number of events creates an excessive burden on police resources.
In regard to the new proposed rules, OCECM, which oversees SAPO, said in a statement “the city decided to reevaluate the policy to determine whether revisions were necessary to serve community needs, while at the same time recognizing NYPD’s continued concerns.”
Leslie Brown, president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed rules could lead to the collapse of organizations like the Forest Hills Chamber, since many of the local businesses depend on the street fairs to stay afloat.
In 2016, there were about 200 street fairs, mostly within Manhattan, causing issues of congestion and a negative impact on local communities.
However, Brown said the proposed rules disproportionately affect the outer boroughs to solve the issues of a few community boards in Manhattan.
She created a Change.org petition for the community to voice opposition. The petition has already garnered about 650 signatures from residents and tourists alike.
“One of the main reasons I love visiting New York City is the street fairs,” said petition supporter Roberta Kizis of East Branch, N.Y. “It is so diverse with food and wares from so many different cultures. New York City would not be the same without them.”
Brown represented the Forest Hills Chamber at a public hearing last Thursday, and said over 100 people showed up to denounce the proposed rules, but there were issues of long lines and a lack of space.
One of the proposed rules states that at least 50 percent of the vendors participating in an event must have a business or local presence within the community board where the festival occurs.
While the Forest Hills Chamber's street fairs typically feature a significant number of local businesses, such as the 125 local Forest Hills businesses who participated in the spring Festival of the Arts, Brown called the proposed rule “unattainable.”
She added that many of the vendors at street fairs around the city don’t have storefronts, but rather work solely at these type of events.
Phyllis Stevens, a self-employed designer and artisan, left a public comment regarding the importance of street fairs to craftspeople.
She relies on street fairs to sell her items, and finds that many of her customers come from neighborhoods beyond the one she lives in.
“If people want them to feel less generic and more community-oriented, a better solution than what is proposed would be to require more NYC-made products and small businesses,” she said.
Brown also found fault with the proposed rule of applicants being required to apply for single-block street festival permits no later than 90 days prior to the proposed event.
“Small businesses usually have a lot of their plates and they might not realize an event is coming up until a few days ahead and then they sign up,” Brown said. “Also, some vendors don’t sign up until they can see what the weather is like because people are less likely to come out if it is cold and rainy.”
The public has until Monday, October 24, to give public comments on the rules.cityofnewyork.us website. The city will publish the final rules after reviewing all of the testimony.