BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO AND ROBERT POZARYCKI
After hearing complaints from Ridgewood residents, Community Board 5 recommended Wednesday night that the city deny a street fair application for this summer’s Fresh Pond Road Street Festival.
Twenty-two of 34 members voted against the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens’ application for the feast that shuts a five-block section of Fresh Pond Road, from Woodbine to Menahan streets, on four consecutive evenings.
At previous meetings, area residents complained the festival brought quality-of-life problems including increased traffic, fewer available parking spaces and some rowdy behavior.
The board narrowly recommended last year’s street fair permit, 18-15. Wednesday’s vote marked the first time since 1996 that the board recommended the permit’s denial.
During Wednesday’s meeting at Middle Village Christ the King Regional High School, Board 5 chairman Vincent Arcuri said the board’s Executive Committee was deadlocked on making a decision about this year’s festival.
“We had the most information we’ve ever received from an applicant for any event,” he said, “but the committee came up with no consensus.”
Board 5 member John Maier, who sits on the Executive Committee, proposed the motion to vote against the street festival permit: “Since I was unable to be there [last month] due to travel issues, I would have been the deciding vote and there would have been a vote on the table to deny the festival.”
Lifelong Ridgewood resident Margaret Chance reiterated previously voiced concerns over the festival during the board’s public forum.
“For the past 20 years, we’ve had negative impact from the Italian festival,” Chance said. “It’s way too long. Every year, it’s increased for longer days and longer hours.”
Chance also cited the relocation of bus stops and an excess of traffic and illegally parked cars on streets as major concerns surrounding the festival.
“Fresh Pond Road is way too narrow,” she said. “The vendors set up too early and the trucks and rides are way too wide to fit comfortably on Fresh Pond Road to allow two-way traffic to go along while the feast is not happening.”
Board 5 member Lucy Dolce, who is also a member of the Federazione, made an impassioned plea to the board to approve the festival permit.
“We have complied with everything this board wanted and more. We’ve done it all,” Dolce said. “This is a festival for families. These are four days for a working class community to be able to take their children and enjoy something at a very cheap cost.”
Proceeds from the festival benefit the Ridgewood-based nonprofit that provides free services to local senior citizens. According to Dolce, the organization no longer receives city and state funding and uses the proceeds from the festival to offset operating costs.
Dolce refuted the charges of police complaints and crime at prior festivals. “There have been no complaints. The police department would not allow us to continue if there were complaints,” she said.
Dolce abstained from the vote due to her membership with the nonprofit organization.
The 22nd Fresh Pond Street Festival is tentatively scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept. 3, and run until Sunday, Sept. 6. The Mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office will have the final say on the matter.
The board did, however, recommend approval for several other local street festivals scheduled to take place this year on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood, Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village and Grand Avenue in Maspeth.
Editor’s note: A previous version incorrectly stated the vote was the first time Board 5 voted against the Fresh Pond Road street festival.