30-Year-Old Columbus Craft Fair Gets the Boot

By Emily Frost on December 6, 2012 9:55am 

UPPER WEST SIDE — The 30-year-old craft fair that fills Columbus Avenue with artists and vendors in October and May will have to take its goods elsewhere, after Upper West Side residents and community leaders voted to give it the boot.

Crafts on Columbus, which brings more than 100 vendors on the east side of Columbus Avenue from 77th Street to 81st Street for six weekends a year, will get to set up shop for the last time in May 2014, when their permit from the Parks Department expires, after the Community Board 7 vote Tuesday night to end the tradition.

"We are not against crafts. We are not against crafts people. We are simply standing up because we believe that we have had enough," testified Steve Anderson, president of a neighborhood association, who said he and his neighbors have been inundated by foot traffic.

The fair — run by the American Arts and Crafts Alliance and features — brings in $87,000 a year in revenue for the city, according to Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson. The Parks Department approached Community Board 7 in November to discuss whether the community board would vote to approve an additional term for the fair.

The American Arts and Crafts Alliance did not return a request for comment.

Residents living in proximity of the fair, which includes popular destinations such as the American Museum of Natural History, Shake Shack, and a weekend greenmarket, said they've turned sour on the fair because they feel overwhelmed by visitors.

"We feel that there’s been an overcommercialization of the park. We have that wonderful flea market that already exists," Robin Epstein, who lives nearby, said, adding that she supported the 79th Street Greenmarket which sets up every Sunday.

Board member Joanne Imohoisen said she felt the craft fair had changed.

"Now it’s a mixed bag with a lot of junk, frankly," she said. 

But other board members said they thought supporting the greenmarket while opposing the craft fair was hypocritical.

"We like farmers. It’s romantic. It has a certain cache, but the fact of the matter is that the issues are identical," said board member Jay Adolf. 

Others countered that the greenmarket added value to the community whereas the craft fair took away from retailers on a street that's at full retail capacity. 

"The fair has changed. You don’t find individual artists as much," commented board member Linda Alexander. 

Philip Abramson of the Parks Department said his department "is in the process of deciding if we will proceed with issuing an RFP to continue the fair after the current contract expires."

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