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Feast not famine! City grants last-minute approval to Bensonhurst fair - Brooklyn Paper

Feast not famine! City grants last-minute approval to Bensonhurst fair

No cigar: Scenes like this one, from the 2012 Feast, could disappear from Bensonhurst if the city does not grant organizers a license.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

It’s an immovable Feast — for now, at least.

The city finally granted street closure permits to Bensonhurst’s 18th Avenue Feast on Aug. 21, just one day before the seven-decade-old celebration is due to begin — ending a scare that the annual Sicilian festival would be cancelled for the second time in three years.

Mayor Bloomberg’s office, which handles street fair approvals, said it finished processing vital tax documents just 24 hours before the saturnalia of sausages and peppers was due to begin — documents it alleges the Feast’s organizers left out of their initial application.

The Santa Rosalia Society — the Italian-American group that runs the event — maintained that it had submitted complete paperwork, and that a city pencil-pusher misplaced several sheets. A similar stationery snafu kept the fair from running in 2011. But the group was overjoyed that they could go forward.

“I feel great about it. I am looking so much forward to it,” said the Angelo Timoneri, the social club’s accountant.

The city had allowed the society to go ahead with decorating the corridor and scheduling the usual vendors even without the permit, and Timoneri said the celebration is ready to begin Aug. 22 at 4:30 pm. It will run through Sept. 1, from 67th Street to 75th Street.

Despite the reprieve for this year, the festival’s future is unclear. One member of the society said that — between the yearly hassle with paperwork and the neighborhood’s quickly shrinking Italian-American population — some in the group are getting fed up with the Feast. The member, who asked to remain anonymous, said the group is weighing bringing in a private event company run the feast in the future, noting that Little Italy’s annual Feast of San Gennaro has survived for the past 16 years despite the near-total exodus of paisans from that neighborhood, thanks to the help of an outside contractor.

But Timoneri said he hopes to see the celebration stay the same way it has for years — sustained with the help of Bensonhurst’s remaining Italian-American youth.

“It’s important to keep tradition alive,” the accountant said.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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