The feast of San Gennaro comes to Mulberry Street every year for ten days, and every year for ten days the neighbors howl in dismay. We actually used to know a woman on the block who simply moved her summer vacation every year to coincide with it. But while people who don't like the noise and smells can, in theory, just leave town, the chic little shops of NoLIta don't have that luxury. So now they are making moves to cut the festival off at Kenmare Street, rather than Houston where it currently ends.
Last week members of Community Board 2 voted to approve the permit for this year's fest (planned for the 15-25 of September) but also urged the Street Activity Permit Office, which will actually approve the fair, "to consider cutting back the size of San Gennaro by stopping the street fair at Kenmare Street so as not to disturb the emerging business community in NOLITA who expressed significant concerns about lost profits and disruption caused by the festival."
Which—and you'll never believe this—has some of the feast's organizers up in arms. One San Gennaro boardmember who has lived in the neighborhood for 45 years told DNA that "we make concessions every year. If we give them Kenmare, what will they want next year? It's been a tradition for 86 years and we'd like to continue the tradition as it is." He then continued by arguing that "they want to turn Mulberry Street into Madison Avenue—it's a war on our culture."
Meanwhile another longtime resident argues for the cutoff, saying "look, I'm a big fan of authenticity and old New York, but the feast as it is today doesn't represent either of those things. It's a holdover from a once-vibrant neighborhood that ceased to exist decades ago."
And, having lived down a few blocks from it for our entire lives, we have to agree. While the feast has its charms (canolis, drunk people, fried food, occasional wild animals) it also is hardly authentic, much of it is little more than a bigger version of a standard street fair, and its ten-day length is a real drain on neighbors' mental states. Cutting it off at Kenmare seems a step in the right direction.