Despite the hopes of some NoLIta residents and shop owners Community Board 2 rejected the motion to cut the Feast of San Gennaro off at Kenmare Street. The Villager reports the vote was 20-13 in favor of letting the feast continue up to Houston, but it came with a number of concessions from the organization that runs it. Meanwhile some local Italian-Americans are starting to ask big questions about the direction the feast has been going in the past decade.
But first, what concessions can Mulberry Street residents expect of this year's feast come September? Well, "there will be no 'Dunk the Clown,' since people complained it was too raucous. Also, there won’t be any karaoke, no booths selling or playing CD’s—unless the music is directly related to the festival’s theme—and no vulgar or mafia T-shirts for sale, either." Further there will be strict guidelines on shutdown times, the soundstage's location will rotate so as to spread the pain around to everyone, and no building of structures will happen at night.
And while many of the feasts supporters are relieved the ten-day event will continue up to Houston—Vivian Catenaccio, a Feast board member, argued it would be an "insult" to not let the feast reach the newly christened basilica that is Old St. Pat's—others think there is legitimate reason to worry about the feast's future.
Victor J. Papa, president of the affordable housing developer Two Bridges, spoke to us earlier today on the matter. And while he wanted to be very clear that he supports "a feast in honor of San Gennaro" he has real concerns about "the way it has deteriorated over the last ten years."
"I think it behoves our Italian-American community to address these issues," he told us. "Otherwise if the feast continues to deteriorate what is the point?"
He wants it to go back to its roots. "San Gennaro is a very popular saint in Naples and Mulberry Street has a very much Neapolitan influence. The feast is, if not to the city as a whole, an icon in the Italian-American community. I support it, but not if if continues to become like a street fair and loses its unique iconographic purpose and image."
Further, in a letter to the community calling for the feast organizers to bring it back to its roots, he wrote that "its deficiencies are as hard to defend for us, as they are easy to exploit by those who choose to take issue with it. The feast is deteriorating and it is, at times, an embarrassment."
Elsewhere in his letter Papa also calls out those whose knee-jerk reaction is to defend the feast (you know who you are): "Our enemy is more than just our instinct to point to anyone or group who, for whatever reason, wish to limit or bring the feast to its eventual demise. Our real enemy is our own refusal to self-criticize the feast and to make it relevant again."
Update: Bob Gormley, the District Manager of Community Board 2, write in to tell us that "although we did vote down one proposed amendment to end the San Gennaro feast at Kenmare Street, a subsequent amendment urging the Mayor’s Street Activities Permit Office to do just that was included in the final resolution." You can read the full resolution below.