The Festa di Santa Rosalia, popularly known as the 18th Avenue feast, should be a go this year – but the dates are still up in the air.
Organizers and Community Board 11 requested that the 11-day festival be pushed up by one week to avoid ending on Labor Day weekend, which would mean a quicker cleanup after the event. But despite the request for a new date, the mayor’s office scheduled it for its traditional window beginning the third Thursday of August. Making matters more difficult, the city only notified the groups of its decision late last week – approximately eight months after the request was made.
“The Street Activity Permit Office advised us they’re not changing the dates, and we’ve written a letter to the mayor outlining why we’re disappointed in this decision,” said Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia. “The Board put in a lot of work and effort into addressing issues [caused by the festival]and we hope he hears our voice and backs the recommendations that were made.”
The change of date was made in response to complaints in recent years about the protracted closure of 18th Avenue to vehicular traffic, as well as garbage and waste concerns in the final days of the event. The Board worked with the festival’s organizers, the Figli di Santa Rosalia Society, to end the troubles. By bumping it up to mid-August, they avoid ending on Labor Day weekend, meaning Sanitation Department workers can haul off the trash immediately after the event rather than let it stew in the street for two additional days. The earlier window also means it will be less of a traffic concern as many are still away for the summer.
Aside from the date change, the Board persuaded the group to increase the number of waste containers and to station street cleaners on every block, according to reports.
“[The Santa Rosalia Society] agreed to the change of the date, so there’s no issue from them and everybody was on board. Except the mayor’s office,” Elias-Pavia said, adding that it should have been a win-win for neighbors and area businesses. “There’s a lot of small mom-and-pop businesses there that would benefit from having the street open and clean so people can shop before heading back to school.”
Community Board 11 passed a resolution in support of the Santa Rosalia Society’s altered application late last year. Both the application and the Board’s note of support were sent to the mayor’s office. But the office dawdled on it for months until late last week, when they notified the Board and the organizer that the event’s date would not be changed. The mayor’s online calendar of events currently lists it as August 21 to August 31.
Organizers at the Santa Rosalia Society could not be reached for this article, but the news must have been a shock to them. Several websites currently list the date as August 14 to 24, as the organization requested. A flier that appears to be from the group says the same thing. But as of now, the Santa Rosalia Society has no permit for those dates.
The mayor’s office did not return a request for comment by deadline. We will update if we hear back from them.
It’s not the first time the group has had to wrangle with the mayor’s office, causing an uncertain future for an event that has lived on for three decades. In 2011, the mayor’s office took so long to dole out the permits that the organizers had no time to put together the event and forced them to cancel. It returned in 2012 and in 2013, when the Board and organizer began discussing alternatives, including shortening the route or the duration.
Whether the event will run August 14 to August 24, or August 21 to August 31, it runs on 18th Avenue between 68th Street and 75th Street, from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. each night. It’s free and open to everybody. When the dates are finalized, Bensonhurst Bean will announce it.
Here’s the letter from Community Board 11 to Mayor de Blasio (Note: This letter erroneously notes that the recommendations passed unanimously. Elias-Pavia informs us this was an error, it passed by consensus, and an amended letter has been sent to the mayor):