Controversial Mulberry Street Mall Extension Backed By Community Board
EAST VILLAGE — A local community board committee has voted to allow business owners on Mulberry Street to extend the thoroughfare's street mall this summer on a one-year trial basis.
The decision by Community Board 2's street activities committee Thursday night is the latest chapter in the turf war between some Little Italy traditionalists and residents fed up with events that close streets to traffic.
The Little Italy Merchants Association, which has coordinated the Mulberry Street Mall on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day since 1995, requested a one-block extension of the pedestrian mall between and streets to draw additional foot traffic and business.
"The block is in an area that needs an energetic boost if it's going to survive," LIMA president Ralph Tramontana said at the boisterous meeting, at Grace Church School on Fourth Avenue.
Some residents of the block, including Marna Lawrence, protested that the extension of the mall, which usually starts at Canal Street and ends at Broome Street, would leave locals with noise, trash and traffic problems created by people who live elsewhere.
Locals also complained that Little Italy's cultural events blanket the area with the red, white and green of the Italian flag.
"The Mulberry Street Mall caters to tourists at the expense of people who live in the neighborhood," Lawrence said.
Marcello Assante, who owns the Crudo Vineria Con Cucina restaurant at 178 Mulberry St. and is one of five merchants on the block who have asked to participate in the mall, expressed frustration with opponents of the requested extension.
"This will give people a real place to bring their kids, without cars," he said.
LIMA gave CB2 more than 70 letters from residents of the block who support the expansion of the mall, Tramontana said.
The battle over the Mulberry Street Mall evokes memories of heated debate between Little Italy backers and NoLita boutique owners over the Feast of San Gennaro, which overtakes Mulberry Street for 10 days during the summer.
Boutique owners complained last year that San Gennaro hurt their business and drew unwanted visitors with "greasy sausage fingers" into their shops.
Unlike San Gennaro, the Mulberry Street Mall is open only to businesses on Mulberry Street and not outside vendors.
Board 2 will vote on LIMA's application at its full board meeting on Feb. 23 at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 151-155 Sullivan St.