Fresh Pond Road Street Festival reignites debates at Community Board 5 Meeting

Ridgewood residents raised concerns over the Fresh Pond Road Street Festival once more at the Community Board 5 meeting, held inside Christ the King High School, at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave, in Middle Village, on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
Photo by Anthony Medina

A decades-old street festival held on Fresh Pond Road, in Ridgewood, is the topic of controversy once again as neighborhood natives voice their concerns about the 4-day event. 

The Fresh Pond Road Street Festival, organized by the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens, comes to Fresh Pond Road every September with music, food, and entertainment. 

At the Community Board 5 meeting on Wednesday, Feb, 7, residents shared their concerns about the festival, citing issues with how long it lasts and its impact on Ridgewood residents. 

The festival runs from Thursday, Sept. 5, to Sunday, Sept. 8 and critics say four days is too long a time to have the 5-block stretch of Fresh Pond Road from Woodbine to Menahan Street blocked off. They also mention how the festival further limits parking options along Fresh Pond Road and detours MTA buses from the area to other residential side streets. 

“Once the beast comes in, both sides of Fresh Pond Road are automatically inhabited by these vendors who have all these stands and there’s no parking there for at least seven days while these stands are there,” said ​​Fred Hoefferle, a Ridgewood resident of 60 years. 

Other speakers at the meeting say vendors at the festival supposedly don’t follow basic campground rules such as leaving a place the same way or even better than when they found it.

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano voiced his opposition against the 4-day festival and encouraged the public to take into consideration the impact this festival has to the community.

“25,000 people live in proximity to that festival,” said Giordano. “The Ridgewood board members, for the most part, have been opposed to a 4-day festival on Fresh Pond Road for a long time.” 

Additionally, Giordano addressed an apparent dismissive attitude towards the Ridgewood speakers during the board meeting. 

“Numerous Ridgewood people testified tonight regarding their concerns for this festival and I’m shocked that they weren’t paid attention to, to any extent to speak of,” Giordano said. 

As district manager, Giordano asked for residents in the nearby areas to consider the impact of a street fair similar to the one on Fresh Pond Road occupied Metropolitan Avenue, in Middle Village, or Myrtle Avenue, in Glendale. 

“The people of Ridgewood seem to get no respect this evening,” Giordano said, during his remarks at the board meeting.  

The CB5 Executive Committee stated opposition to the four-day festival and recommended a 3-day festival instead. The board voted in favor of the recommendation, limiting the festival to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 

The board’s initial disapproval of the festival comes as no surprise to the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens. The festival was only reinstated to its original four-day duration in 2020, after being shortened for years. 

Tony DiPiazza, the festival’s organizer and President of the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens, has suggested in the past that the opposition originates from a cultural bias against Italian-Americans, since the festival is meant to celebrate Italian-American heritage. 

QNS has reached out to DiPiazza but has not yet received a response as of press time.

The challenges linked to the festival have roots stretching back to the 1990s, as highlighted by a New York Times article . This article also referenced the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association’s resistance to the festival, a stance that was reiterated at last week’s Community Board 5 meeting — underscoring a debate that has persisted for nearly three decades.