Volume 74, Number 23 | Octuber 6 - 12 , 2004

Mixed reviews as Book Country fair is in the books

By Lincoln Anderson

After all the pre-fair debate, the book can finally now be closed on the New York Is Book Country fair — at least for the first issue.

The book fair, which formerly occurred on Fifth Ave., took place in and around Washington Sq. and in New York University buildings last Saturday and Sunday. In the park it occupied a swath running through the middle of the park, on the east side of the fountain, from north to south.

Strolling through the square last Sunday to check out conditions, Councilmember Alan Gerson, who helped broker the terms for the fair to be allowed, gave his assessment.

“I think, for the most part, they’re keeping to the agreement. The [rest of the] park is open and people are having a great time…. But they were not supposed to have the portable generator,” he noted of an orange generator that was humming nearby on the east side of the park’s plaza.

“Clearly, this cannot set a precedent. Clearly, this has to be the exception to the rule,” Gerson said, referring to Community Board 2’s longstanding policy prohibiting commercial events being held in the park. “Whether we can live with this as an annual event, one time a year, we have to talk about it with the community.”

Gerson said Saturday had seen some traffic congestion because of street closures for the fair south of Washington Sq. Park. This happened to coincide with the Caring Community’s simultaneous street fair, previously scheduled, on Washington Sq. N. Also, a Sukhot shelter that Chabad on Washington Sq. had planned to have on the raised Teen Plaza had to be moved to the south side of the fountain plaza to accommodate a performance stage for the Target children’s book fair.

A “No to Book Country” button pinned to her shoulder bag, Susan Goren, a main opponent of the book fair, came up to Gerson and, pointing to all the red bull’s eyes in the park, complained the fair was “all about promoting Target” in New York City. The chain store sponsored the children’s book fair.

Leaders of the Washington Pl. Block Association issued a release saying absolutely no Villagers had attended the fair.

“Our observations are that that Village residents ignored the book fair completely. They simply treated it as an interloper,” they wrote.

However, Michael Haberman, president of the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, said the fair was sorely needed for business, and that he saw people he knew from the neighborhood as well as tourists at the Chamber’s booth.

Haberman, also director of government and community relations for New York University, pointed out that in a recent letter to The Villager, Lezly Ziering of the Washington Pl. Block Association, inaccurately stated that N.Y.U. provided N.Y.I.B.C.’s tents and setup equipment. Haberman said the book fair provided its own equipment.

“Speaking as person,” Haberman said, “it was great to see kids running around yelling, ‘Mommy, buy me this book,’ instead of buying a video game.”

The Villager also noticed that the drug dealers who usually congregate on the west side of the park’s plaza seemed to be keeping a low profile with the book fair activity nearby.

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