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Efforts to Limit Midtown Street Fairs Hits Speed Bump

By DNAinfo Staff on March 11, 2011 4:03pm

A typical summer street fair on Lexington Avenue.
A typical summer street fair on Lexington Avenue.
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By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — Community Board 5’s desire to scale back summer street fairs hit a speed bump this week after members said they probably couldn't enforce new rules.

The board voted Thursday on applications for 46 proposed street fairs, including the Daytop Village drug and alcohol treatment center’s 17-year old Strawberry Festival which helps fund counseling and other services for addicts' families.

Last week, two committees of the board voted to recommend denying the event unless Daytop agreed to a set of conditions, including holding it alongside another fair.

The recommendation was intended to recognize a new set of guidelines passed last month to limit the size and impact of fairs, whose ubiquitous tube socks, grilled sausage stands and bargain suitcases have earned the scorn of many, including the mayor.

Ricardo Victoria, 58, a loyal member of Daytop Village's Family Association, pleaded with board to allow its summer fundraiser.
Ricardo Victoria, 58, a loyal member of Daytop Village's Family Association, pleaded with board to allow its summer fundraiser.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

But organizers last week insisted the conditions would effectively kill the event because of insurance restrictions. Families and volunteers at Daytop turned out in force Thursday to plead with the board to make an exception given the fact that the new rules were passed after they had submitted their applications for the fair.

"It is unfair and unjust that you have amended this two months after the fact," said Barbara Fazio, a volunteer at Daytop who said that losing the fundraising money would put their programs in jeopardy.

"Please find it in your heart to reconsider," she said.

Ricardo Victoria, 58, whose daughter is a recovering addict, said he travels from Queens to participate in the program. He appealed to the board to reconsider and save what he, like others, described as a "lifesaving service."

"They’re lost souls out there. [Daytop] gives them direction and turns their lives around," he said.

During its deliberations, board members reiterated why they wanted the events combined and raised doubts about producers' claims that the restrictions would make the fairs impossible to insure.

But the board also told Daytop’s members that it expected the Mayor's Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO), which is ultimately in charge of issuing the permits, to approve the festival’s original plan despite the board’s attempts to impose the conditions.

"It will not be denied because of this resolution here today," board member Ron Dwenger told organizers before their vote.

The city has not issued a final decision on the fair, but SAPO must abide by its own street fair regulations, which run counter to the board’s.

SAPO has indicated, however, that it will continue working with the board to develop new ideas about how to minimize the impacts of fairs.

Regardless of the reason, Daytop organizers were thrilled.

"We are very pleased that fairness prevailed in dealing with the community board and SAPO," said Michael Buonauro, Daytop’s communications officer, who said his volunteers and clients were "ecstatic."