Volume 80, Number 40 | March 3 - 9, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the city will grant the annual Feast of San Gennaro in September the right to extend on Mulberry St. all the way from Canal St. to Houston St. In doing so, the mayor disregarded Community Board 2’s resolution strongly urging City Hall to consider cutting the 11-day street festival off at Kenmare St., so as not to adversely impact the new fashion boutiques and businesses in what has now come to be known, by many, as Nolita.
So, the issue of whether the street fair will run its usual full length has been resolved — at least for this year. Right now, the immediate question is whether festival supporters will stage a protest on March 26 against Nolita boutique owners who advocated for shortening the feast by three blocks.
As of last week, details about the protest were prominently posted atop a Facebook page, “Little Italy and San Gennaro Under ATTACK.” Some of the comments on the page sounded a bit like the lead-up to a World Wrestling Federation match, if not a noir superhero comic. “It’s about time,” posted one man whose “face” icon was a pit bull. “Adrenalin is pumping. Now is the time to act.” For the most part, though, the Facebook page looks like it’s full of Italian-American pride and “social networking.”
Meanwhile, San Gennaro supporters remain incensed that one merchant reportedly complained about festival-goers touching pricy garments with “greasy hands.” But we’re guessing this merchant meant it literally — i.e., that it’s not the best idea for someone who just downed a tasty fried sausage or zeppole to handle a delicate, expensive blouse. On the other hand, San Gennaro supporters calling advocates for shortening the fest “flyover state” transplants is also derogatory — and contrary to the idea of New York as a magnet for people from all over.
As of yesterday, however, there was no longer any notice of the protest on the Facebook page. Former Democratic District Leader John Fratta is the point person behind both the Facebook page and the backlash against C.B. 2’s resolution.
Fratta admits this issue is “personal.” His grandfather — who had a flower shop on Mulberry St. — was a co-founder and first president of the 85-year-old feast. Speaking this Tuesday, Fratta said, “People are still very angry” about the effort to cut three blocks from the event. In addition to the protest, Fratta and others had been urging a boycott of the trendy boutiques. On Tuesday, Fratta stated, “The boycott is still on.” While no one from Little Italy shops at them, Fratta said, the boycott is calling on Italian-Americans statewide to shun the shops.
As for the protest, he said, its focus isn’t set yet. However, in a previous Facebook post, he wrote, “For the businesses that spoke out against the feast with derogatory words we need to send them a message…in the form of demonstrations in front of their businesses.” In another post, he urged a turnout of 1,500 people. On Tuesday, Fratta told us he planned to meet with the boutique owners Wednesday, which could affect both the boycott and protest — but we didn’t learn the outcome.
For her part, Emily DePalo, a board member of Figli di San Gennaro, the feast’s organizing group, said the feast issue is “moot” now, and that any demonstration could be “pro-Italian.”
Hopefully, the rhetoric on both sides will lower, and any demonstration will be positive, not confrontational. The focus now should be on how San Gennaro will shape up on its northern three blocks, where feast organizers and Monsignor Sakano of Old St. Patrick’s will be working to improve the festival’s offerings. Somehow we think, with all the added attention, this year’s festival will be better than ever.