Little Italy Street Mall Loses Backing Over Potential Petition Fraud

By Andrea Swalec on February 27, 2012 2:04pm 

Little Italy Merchants Association president Ralph Tramontana said expanding the Mulberry Street Mall by a block would spur business between Kenmare and Broome streets.
Little Italy Merchants Association president Ralph Tramontana said expanding the Mulberry Street Mall by a block would spur business between Kenmare and Broome streets.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

MANHATTAN — A community board has urged the city to investigate a Little Italy merchants group it accused of filing phony petitions to support a request to extend an annual street mall.

CB2 has also withdrawn its backing for a permit for this year's event.

Members voted at a full board meeting Thursday night not to register opinion on whether the city should approve a street permit for the Little Italy Merchants Association's annual Mulberry Street Mall.

"We're calling on the appropriate authorities to investigate," CB2 district manager Bob Gormley said.

The board's street activities committee voted Feb. 2 in support of the permit request for the mall, which has run between Canal and Broome streets on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day since 1995.

In the Feb. 2 vote, the committee also approved a one-block extension to this year's mall, on Mulberry between Broome and Kenmare streets, despite opposition from some residents fed up with events that close streets to traffic.  

But Thursday's vote followed accusations made by CB2 last week that only five names out of 71 the mall's organizers said backed the extension could be verified.

LIMA president Ralph Tramontana said in a statement Monday that the group is working on finding out how merchants on Mulberry Street gathered the petition signatures, which LIMA admitted it did not attempt to verify.

"We are taking steps to look into how the petition signatures were collected and plan on using a more efficient and transparent way to collect signatures for any future petitions concerning Little Italy," Tramontana said.

It's highly unusual for CB2 to not take a position on a street permit request within its boundaries that is on file with the city, Gormley said.

"I can't remember us ever having done that," he said.

In an open letter to the city's Street Activity Permit Office, the community association Friends of Petrosino Square called for denial of LIMA's street permit application until "a full investigation" can be done.

SAPO did not immediately respond to an inquiry about protocol for investigating potential fraud in permit applications.

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