Volume 74, Number 48 | April 06 - 12 , 2005

No sequel for the Book Country Fair in Wash. Sq.

By Amanda Kludt

New York Is Book Country, the nonprofit group that runs the annual book fair in the fall, has disbanded as a nonprofit. Its future is unknown as it is reported the group is negotiating a possible sponsorship from the New York Times.

According to a Publisher’s Weekly article on March 28, the group has run out of money and insiders blame the extravagant 25th anniversary fair as well as the publishing world being increasingly controlled by a smaller number of large conglomerates. Michael Loeb, a member of the executive board of NYIBC, confirmed the group’s disbandment and that the factors were “funding and time.” However, he wouldn’t comment further on the future of the group or the reasons for the lack of money.

The organization’s former director, Anne Binkley, left a few months ago to work at Quills, a book award ceremony run by Reed Business Information. Binkley was the second director hired in the last three years since the original founder of NYIBC, Linda Exman, left.

Those who are said to be in charge now, Alyse Myers, marketing executive for the New York Times, and Lisa Herling of HarperCollins, did not return calls by press time. However, a Times spokesperson said no decision has been made about whether the festival will be held this year. Executive board members of NYIBC said they could not comment on what is happening with the group.

The disbandment of the group was not made public to the community. Last week at the Community Board 2 full board meeting, a discussion of the sidewalk permits for the fair were on the agenda but deferred. Councilmember Alan Gerson’s office wasn’t notified either. “This is news to us,” said Dirk McCall, Gerson’s chief of staff.

While many Village residents are fans of the fair, last year, its relocation from Fifth Ave. to Washington Sq. Park spurred protest from the Washington Pl. Block Association. The group complained that no locals were benefiting and that it commercialized the park.

“We’re really very sorry that the New York Is Book Country is fading away because it was a good event,” said Mary Johnson, a member of the Washington Pl. Block Association. “Our objection was to coming to Washington Sq. Park and setting up in a residential area.” Johnson said last year they were aware that NYIBC owed money to different groups of people, including a group of Cub Scouts that helped the fair set up tables. She said that the group paid for the use of the sidewalks by paying the city $20,700 from the vendors’ fees but never paid for the use of the park

The office of Councilmember Gerson worked closely with the book fair group last year. “They tried very hard to work with us,” said McCall. McCall said if the group was to somehow have an event this fall Gerson would encourage them to use a different park because of the significant negative reaction from some Village residents. “People like books,” he said. “But people don’t like it when the park is taken away for the weekend.”

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