Duane Reade and Chase branches and bars with $16 cocktails get most of the attention when discussing the Great Blanding of New York, but don't forget all those street fairs with the same boring vendors selling the same sausages and zeppoles as the generic street fair the week before. Ex-longhair and current progressive mayor Bill de Blasio hasn't forgotten, and he's about to propose a way to drain the familiar banality out of street fairs and give the outer boroughs more chances to buy whatever their local version of sausages and zeppoles are.
Politico reports that in an attempt to bring some more local flavor to street fairs, the mayor is proposing a new rule that would mandate that fifty percent of all vendors for street fairs come from the community board in which the street fair is being held. And in an attempt to let the outer boroughs host more fairs, another rule would cap the number of street fairs held in Manhattan at 100 per year, and prevent a community board from hosting more than 20 in a year. The city would still maintain a cap of 200 street fairs per year, due to the fact that the fairs cost the city more in police overtime than they bring in from vendor permits.
The fifty percent rule would break a kind of monopoly held by three street fair operators who have come to dominate the concessions at the fairs. Todd Berman of Clearview Festival Partners, one of the big companies that puts on the fairs, told Politico that it wasn't "realistic" or "achievable" to have fifty percent of the vendors in a street fair both come from a community board and also make a street fair profitable.
Jonathan Bowles of the Center for an Urban Future, which criticized street fairs as becoming too generic back in 2006, told Gothamist in an email that "rules that give opportunities to local entrepreneurs could definitely inject more life in some of the fairs" but that "the most interesting street fairs will be the ones that bring in a diverse mix of vendors from all over the city, not just those from each community."
Ultimately, Bowles said, the goal of any reform of street fairs should be to give people "the opportunity to sample a variety of food and merchandise vendors, including ones that are outside of their typical set of options," while making sure "there are rules to prevent the same few dozen vendors appearing week in and week out at every street fair" like is happening right now. That's, ahem, fair, but they better not mess with the velcro wall.