The flea stays, Renegade is out at East River Park

The flea stays, Renegade is out at East River Park
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The Renegade Craft Fair is out, but the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg will get to stay in the East River State Park for another year.

At a meeting hosted by the Friends of East River State Park to discuss the conditions in the new park, some neighbors reiterated their complaints about the constant infiltration of commercial ventures into the public space. The state responded by declaring that it would nix Renegade, a festival that has met at the park only once in 2013, according to Jackie Meyer, head of the volunteer organization.

But some residents feel that is not enough, and that the Flea and Smorgasburg, which this year occupied the park every weekend day for eight months, are the real problem. Meyer hoped that some kind of compromise could be reached, but locals were adamant.

“I suggested that the Flea take a couple of holiday breaks,” said Meyer. “But they were very resistant to the idea.”

For $1,500 a day, the Brooklyn Flea rents the smaller of the two slabs of concrete in the park. This year, the state gave them the space every Saturday and Sunday from April to November.

Residents claim they have not been able to escape the constant bombardment of tourists, noise and trash created by the Brooklyn Flea and its sister venture, Smorgasburg. Besides, they say it just takes up too much space inside the normally bucolic park.

“It’s not fair to the community,” said Jonathan Burkan, who lives across the street. “When do we get a rest?”

Renegade, which operates in a few cities around the country, hosted two craft fairs in the park in 2012, but only one this year, in June. Company officials said they were disappointed to learn that the state wasn’t going to allow them back.

“We will miss showcasing talented Brooklyn makers with the beautiful East River State Park as our backdrop,” said Renegade spokeswoman Erin Dollar.

Park official Dan Keefe did not comment on Renegade, but said the state is currently working with the Brooklyn Flea to negotiate the terms of a 2014 lease.

Regardless of their complaints about the Brooklyn Flea occupying the park every weekend, many Williamsburgers agree that the Flea has addressed most of the problems the residents had. For example, some drivers could not see around large trucks that were parking on the corner of N. Eighth Street and Kent Avenue, but once the neighbors mentioned it, the trucks were moved.

“It wasn’t a problem from then on,” said Meyer.

Brooklyn Flea co-owner Jonathan Butler said he has tried to be a good neighbor.

“Any new location, you’re going to have to work out the kinks, and we had more people show up than we ever could have imagined,” said Butler. “But in this first year, I think we’ve proven ourselves to be reliable neighbors.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Cleaning up the leaves: Alexandra Broenniman moderated a meeting between the state and the Friends of East River State Park.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini