A moveable feast? 9-11 rule a roadblock to Dyker group’s street fest expansion plan

Take it to the streets!: Grand Knight Vincent Gentile and Feast Marshall Antonio Limone with the Madonna di Montevergine on 13th Avenue. They want to close 1the avenue between 84th and 86th streets to accomodate amusement rides and vendors in September for the Feast of Madonna di Montevergine.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

They want to take back the street!

The city should ignore a decade-old ban on massive street festivals so a group of Dyker Heights do-gooders can throw a four-day bash to raise money for its operation, members said. The Knights of Columbus wants to move its weekend-long Feast of Madonna di Montevergine out of a parking lot and onto 13th Avenue between 84th and 86th streets. But a 2001 moratorium on new street festivals longer than one block or one day threatens to turn the feast to famine, one knight said.

“The issue with limiting it to one day on the street is if you put rides out there, they’re open one day, and then we have to swing them back to the parking lot,” said grand knight Vincent Gentile — not the Bay Ridge councilman, but another Vincent Gentile. “Can it happen? Yes. Is it easy for operations? I don’t think so.”

A smaller festival would generate less money for the organization, which uses the proceeds for charitable endeavors such as giving needy neighborhood families Thanksgiving turkeys, another knight said.

“It wouldn’t really make that much, and we really want to do a lot for the community this time around,” said club chairman George Di Grande. “That money goes all around the community.”

The mayor’s office will likely refuse, but Community Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee voted to support the five-day festival application on Jan. 11 with the hopes it will give the organization more sway with the city, a board honcho said.

“Ultimately, I think its final form is going to be adjusted by the city, because the moratorium is still in place,” said district manager Josephine Beckmann. “I think a recommendation in the affirmative of support with the understanding of the moratorium would be helpful as then the city would move to work with the applicants.”

Former mayor Rudy Giuliani introduced the moratorium on new festivals after the 9-11 terror attacks, citing the strain the festivals put on the police department and the massive cost of paying cops’ overtime. Mayors Bloomberg and Deblasio have renewed it each year since.

The city grandfathers in existing multi-day and multi-block festivals — such as Bay Ridge’s the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church’s Greek Cultural Festival — but it bars organizers from expanding their festivals’ scope or length, and organizations that fail to re-apply for their existing festival one year lose their claim to one forever.

The mayor’s office issues permits for 200 street fairs and 5,000 other existing events each year, according to an annual statement re-establishing the moratorium.

Mayor de Blasio toyed with the idea of lifting the ban this year, but ultimately kept it. Borough President Adams is no fan of the ban and told the mayor so last year, claiming new street fests popped up around the borough while a 14-year festival in Flatbush lost its permit because it failed to renew paperwork one year, according to Capital New York.

The mayor’s Office of Citywide Events Coordination and Management declines any application barred by the moratorium, but will work out an alternative event that fits guidelines if possible, a mayoral spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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