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City Bans Weekday Street Fairs in Lower Manhattan

Fairs like this one on Murray Street in TriBeCa will be restricted to weekends and holidays.
Fairs like this one on Murray Street in TriBeCa will be restricted to weekends and holidays.
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Flickr/NK Eide

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — Downtown workers may have a bit more trouble  picking up tube socks and funnel cake on their lunch breaks.

The city has banned all weekday street fairs in lower Manhattan indefinitely, citing the multitude of construction projects that are already choking the neighborhood's streets.

"Given the enormous amount of construction activity in lower Manhattan, street fairs in the area will be limited to weekends and holidays for the time being," said Andrew Brent, spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "We plan to conduct these reviews [of the impact of street fairs] annually."

The ban applies just to Community Board 1, which covers the area below Canal Street on the west and the Brooklyn Bridge on the east, Brent said. The mega-projects underway there include the World Trade Center, Fulton Street Transit Center and multiyear water main overhauls on Chambers Street and Hudson Street.

The city did not formally announce the policy. Local groups found out about it over the past few weeks, when the mayor's Street Activity Permit Office turned down their applications.

The PTA at P.S. 89 in Battery Park City applied for a permit to close Warren Street on a Friday afternoon in September for their annual Run for Knowledge fundraiser, just like they've done for the past 11 years.

"It's one of our most important fundraisers, especially because of budget cuts," said Anne Albright, a P.S. 89 parent.

While the students from four local schools will still be able to race up Battery Park City's esplanade this year, they won't be able to celebrate afterward at a carnival on Warren Street, which offered rides and games and helped raise money in past years.

"We're going to have to do a scaled-back version of the event," Albright said. "Hopefully it will still be as much fun."

After hearing from P.S. 89 parents at a meeting on Tuesday, Community Board 1 passed a resolution vociferously opposing the city's new policy.

CB1 isn't just a bystander in the spat. The board planned to raise about $30,000 this year by hosting its own series of street fairs, and now staff is scrambling to move the weekday fairs to weekends and holidays. The board traditionally held fairs on weekdays because there are more people in lower Manhattan, which enables the fairs to raise more money.

The community board is also speaking to elected officials in the hope of overturning the city's new policy.

"It has a terrible impact on all the nonprofits that want to have street fairs . . . and on our street fairs, which support the vital work we do in the community," said Julie Menin, CB1's chairwoman.

Noah Pfefferblit, CB1's district manager, said he thinks the city should be more flexible and find ways of making weekday street fairs work, rather than banning them entirely.

"We certainly understand some of the reasons for it," Pfefferblit said, "but we think it could be worked out given time and effort on everyone's parts."