UPPER WEST SIDE — The ongoing fight over a 34-year-old crafts fair that pitted participating artists against nearby residents ended in a compromise allowing the fair to return next spring for an even shorter run than originally agreed upon.
After fielding complaints from neighbors who bemoaned the added congestion from Crafts on Columbus, Community Board 7 decided at a meeting Monday night the fair could return for half its typical run time — losing a full weekend from what the board's parks committee voted for last month. The decision reverses a December 2012 board decisionto boot the 100-vendor fair entirely.
In past years, Crafts on Columbus has run for three weekends in October and three weekends spread across April and May along Columbus Avenue between West 77th and 81st streets. The board agreed it could return for only the three spring weekends, after agreeing last month it could operate for four weekends.
The fair's director, Simon Gaon, plans to apply for a new five-year permit from the Parks Department for the modified schedule. The department said it is reviewing the board's vote.
The decision came in part due to a reversal by neighborhood block associations. The groups had previously opposed the fair entirely, but recently decided they could live with a shortened schedule, given the passionate outpouring from craftspeople and other Upper West Siders.
"We feel this is a reasonable compromise, an important coming together," explained Steve Anderson, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Park Association, which represents neighbors who live next to the fair area.
The Columbus Avenue BID, which had argued the fair hurts local businesses, also conceded support for a three-weekends-a-year run.
Many of the participating artists wanted to accept nothing short of a full six-week run, Gaon said.
But in his tearful testimony to the board accepting the modified schedule, he explained: "I don’t want to go into the bidding process without the support of the community."
Artist and Upper West Side resident Peter Salwen thought the process was unfair and the artists would lose out unless the original run was preserved.
"To me, it sounds like they backed Simon into a corner," he said. "Cut the event in half, cut the artist’s revenues in half."
As part of the compromise, the block associations and BID insisted the board help them form a local task force to determine a better location for the local greenmarket, which is displaced by the fair on each of the Sundays it runs.
Currently, the Columbus Avenue Greenmarket moves across the street to the O'Shea school complex, but residents argued the location is too cramped.
Ultimately, Gaon concluded, the new schedule "is a fair and reasonable compromise."