Fetish Fest Organizers Erect Wall to Shield Luxe Condo Neighbors

By Mathew Katz on June 15, 2012 6:53am 

A man in leather chows down on a wiener at the 2010 Folsom Street East fetish festival.
A man in leather chows down on a wiener at the 2010 Folsom Street East fetish festival.
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flickr/Tom Giebel

CHELSEA — Residents of a pricey new building in Chelsea have gotten so tied up in knots over an annual leather fetish festival that dominates their block they've convinced organizers to wall off the view.

Folsom Street East, the fetish fest that bills itself as "New York F---ing City's Sexiest Street Festival," has agreed to build a wall along the south side of West 28th Street between 10th and 11th avenues.

It will shield residents and guests of the luxe Chelsea +aRt condo building from unwanted views of leather-clad men and women.

"From 11th Avenue to their doorway, we'll create a corridor against the building," said Susan Wright, a spokeswoman for the fair which bills itself as the city's premiere leather fest and which kicks off June 17.

Wright pointed out that the chi-chi condo's residents will still have to pass by the leather-friendly gay bar the Eagle, which is next door to the condo, without the help of blinders — "but they do that anyway."

The residents' concerns, first reported by Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, stemmed from the fact that they had to walk through the saucy street party to get home last year.

"Even as a gay man, I was thoroughly embarrassed and offended by what I saw," +art condo resident Eric Lee wrote in a letter to Community Board 4.

"How can a street fair that is based on a sexual fetish be allowed in a neighborhood where there are at least three large residential buildings with children in viewing distance?"

But the letter, sent in January on behalf of residents of Lee's condo and two others, came too late.

CB4's board said they approved the festival at the end of 2011, before the letter from critics arrived.

"Before that letter, we never had anyone complain," said CB4 District Manager Bob Benfatto, who said he had never received complaints about the fair, which moved onto that block eight years ago.

For most of the fair's history, its neighbors were largely industrial. Other neighbors included the Eagle, which is a sponsor of the festival, and the strip club Scores.

But with the recent arrival of residential buildings in West Chelsea — including the 27-floor Avalon set for completion in 2014 — Folsom Street East's organizers said they understand they will have to work with their new neighbors.

"It's definitely something we have to consider because the area is changing and new concerns are being brought in," Wright said.

"In the fall, we'll sit down with everyone concerned. We want to still hold the fair at this location and not have an adverse impact on it."

Wright added that the fair has strict guidelines governing it. Nudity is not allowed, nor are public sex acts.

"They dress street legal," she said. "Yes, that might be just wearing a jock, but this is New York."

Contacted on Thursday, Lee said he had not been told the corridor would be set up, but did say it was a move in the right direction."

"I think a lot of people at this building would have a great time at the fair," he said.

"It's just getting to and from the building without having to go through what's essentially a nightclub."

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