Despite Community Board 5’s disapproval, the four-day Fresh Pond Road Street Festival will happen this September.
Lucy Dolce of the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens, which sponsors the annual fair, said Thursday that the Street Activity Permits Office (SAPO) granted approval of its application.
The festival will occur on four consecutive nights, Sept. 3 to 6, along a five-block stretch of Fresh Pond Road between Menahan and Woodbine streets. Back in March, Board 5 voted to recommend denial of a street fair permit for the festival over concerns regarding traffic and various quality-of-life issues.
Following the board’s vote, the organizers appealed their case to the SAPO, which makes the final determination on all street permits citywide. The Fresh Pond Road festival has been a late summer fixture in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, featuring a variety of games, rides, vendors and other attractions.
But the festival’s presence garnered stiff opposition from residents for myriad reasons, from traffic congestion and lost parking spots related to the road’s closure, to reports of disorderly behavior among patrons and refuse left behind on the roadway.
Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano confirmed the SAPO approval, noting that the office indicated the reasons the board gave for the license’s denial weren’t enough to shelve a festival that has occurred regularly since the mid-1990s.
Dolce charged that the allegations of unruly behavior at the fair were exaggerated and that the organizers worked to make sure Fresh Pond Road was swept clean immediately after each night’s festivities.
“We didn’t want any problems with the festival,” Dolce said. “But no matter what we did, it wasn’t right. No matter what I said or what we did to prove ourselves, it was never enough.”
As for parking and traffic concerns, Dolce sympathized with the situation but remarked that the four-day inconvenience was a small price to pay for a festival that helps support the community.
“They should be proud that in our community we can put together a four-day festival without any major incidents happening,” she said. “Do you think the police department would let us go forward if they thought something would go wrong?”
Giordano said the festival itself “has been a benefit in some ways, but members of the Ridgewood community who live near there have difficulties with the fair.”
“The fair, while it is enjoyable for many people, does — in the opinion of many community board members — put strains on the community” with regard to traffic, Giordano said. He noted that Fresh Pond Road, as one of the area’s main north-south arteries, is “a tougher block” to close than most other locations where street fairs are held, such as Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood and Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.
“At the same time, the federazione, to my knowledge, has used the funds they have earned for some good purposes,” he added.