Mayors Office rejects HOWL! Avenue A street fair
By Amanda Kludt
From fights with the Boys Club Alumni Association to city moratoriums and restrictions, it seems the HOWL! festival just cant get their way. For the third time since its inception in 2003, the Federation of East Village Artists HOWL! Festival will not be able to have their desired street fair on Avenue A.
This year, as in previous years, the HOWL! festival will hold a block party on St. Marks Pl. from First Ave. to Avenue A. However, originally the group wanted to have the block party in conjunction with a street festival on Avenue A between Seventh and 10th Sts. and a rally and parade from Peter Cooper Park to Tompkins Sq. Park. These plans were O.K.d by Community Board 3.
But, try as they might, they could not get final approval. Because of a citywide moratorium, no group that has not had a street fair the previous year can have one in the current year. This law, which has been renewed every year since it was put in place in 2003, has prevented more than 100 groups from having street fairs.
It gets larger and larger and larger and weve reached saturation, said Mildred Duran, assistant commissioner of the Mayors Community Assistance Unit, saying every year they have to deny more and more applications like FEVAs.
Back in 2003, HOWL!s inaugural year, FEVA encountered problems not from the mayors office, but from C.B. 3 and the Boys Club Alumni Association. The Boys Club Alumni Association had a permit for a street fair on Avenue A in 2002 and then again in 2003 and had their fair scheduled for the fall. Since C.B. 3 limits street fairs to one per block per season, there could be no HOWL! street fair that summer
Members of FEVA argued that they should have been allowed to have the permit, arguing that the HOWL! festival would be more in tune with the community when compared to the Boys Club Alumni Association fair. They petitioned the community, sent around fliers and threatened to protest the Boys Club fair, scheduled for Oct. l4, 2003. FEVA argued that the Boys Clubs event, run by a major street festival company, would be a generic socks and sausage festival that would only hurt local businesses.
Because of FEVAs protests, the Boys Club Alumi Association canceled its 2003 street fair. It just wasnt worth it, said Johnny Santiago, the alumni association president. They caused trouble. They didnt know what we were about. He added he was upset that they lost a good fundraising opportunity for the Boys Club.
The group had raised over $10,000 in their fair in 2002 and Santiago said the proceeds went directly to buy computers for the kids at the Boys Clubs E. 10th St. and Avenue A building. According to Santiago, after they cancelled the fair, they wrote a letter to the Mayors Office saying they were going to forfeit their permit and give it to Our Lady of Sorrows, a Catholic church and school on Pitt St. The church, however, claims no knowledge of the permit handover, and its street fair is on Pitt and Stanton Sts., not Avenue A.
Duran said that while organizations can hand over or donate their permits to new charitable organizations, the Boys Club did not hand over theirs. However, she did agree that the group was bullied out of having the street fair. FEVA chased them off Avenue A, she said, They were intimidated and to avoid any problems they cancelled.
Duran said that members of FEVA later came to her and applied for their street fair, saying they were the legitimate representatives of the community. It just doesnt go like that. You cant intimidate them and push them out and then come back and say, I want to have the fair, she said. However, she denied the group on the basis of being a new street fair.
The next year, in 2004, FEVA proposed a co-sponsorship of an Avenue A street fair between themselves and The Boys Club Alumni Association to get around the moratorium. However, since neither group held a street fair on the avenue the year before in 2003, no one got the permit.
FEVA is still doing their humongous event in Tompkins Sq. Park and I gave them St. Marks Pl. between First and A as a corridor to their event, said Duran, adding that the Ninth Precinct was not in favor of closing down Avenue A, anyway.
Two months ago, C.B. 3 voted to approve both Avenue A and St. Marks for HOWL!s street fair for this year. The boards vote was unanimous, except for one member who was present but not voting, apparently to avoid a conflict of interest.
This is news to me, said Susan Stetzer, the boards district manager, told on Tuesday that HOWL!s street fair application for Avenue A had once again been denied.