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Ousted Columbus Avenue Crafts Fair Gets Approval to Return

By Emily Frost | May 23, 2014 4:57pm
 A Community Board 7 committee said the crafts fair could continue to operate in the neighborhood, but only for four weekends instead of six. 
Crafts on Columbus Gets Conditional Approval
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A 34-year-old local crafts fair that got booted from the neighborhood has received initial approval to return, though on a reduced schedule.

Crafts on Columbus was granted approval by Community Board 7's Parks and Recreation Committee Thursday night to continue operating, but for only four weekends each year, instead of six.

The crafts fair still needs approval from the full board and the Parks Department, which issues the site permit, but the dozens of crafts people who attended the meeting applauded the decision.

"We think it adds vibrancy and character to the neighborhood," said Jennifer Most, who lives a few blocks south of the fair. "This isn’t an SRO. This isn’t a trash compacting facility."

In September 2012, Community Board 7 voted to remove the fair, which had run on three weekends in October, one weekend in late April and two in May, at the insistence of a collection of block associations who said it created too much congestion. 

Along with a sizeable online petition, City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal rallied behind the fair, which would have had its last appearance in early May if not for the board's reversal. 

"This is the last vestige of what makes the Upper West Side the Upper West Side," Rosenthal said. "This has got to be a no brainer."

Barbara Adler, president of the Columbus Avenue BID, argued that the craftspeople competed with local merchants who were paying high rents. Steve Anderson of the Theodore Roosevelt Park Association said neighbors of the fair experience continuous commotion, from the New York Marathon to the Macy's Day Parade to the American Museum of Natural History's millions of visitors.

"We the residents of this community would also like to enjoy some peaceful tranquility during the nice months on the weekend," he said. 

In deference to residents who fought the fair, but recognizing that 15 percent of the vendors are from the neighborhood and 50 percent from the city, the board hashed out a compromise that reduces the fair's stay, but doesn't eliminate it. 

A Parks Department spokesman has said that if the full board does "vote in favor of the market's return, we would consider issuing a new RFP."

The next full board meeting is Monday, June 2.