18th Avenue Feast Hangs On In A Changing City – For Now

image by Brian Hedden

Please see our more recent post for the latest news on the 18th Avenue Feast.

UPDATE 8/17/11: Thanks to a typo on the city’s events calender, it looks like our previous report was wrong. According to the mayor’s office, the 2011 Festa di Santa Rosalia  will take place for 10 days – from August 25 to September 4

UPDATE 8/14/11: According the city’s official event calender – which remains unchanged from last week – it looks like this year’s 18th Avenue Feast will last only one day.

The 2011 Festa di Santa Rosalia will take place Thursday August 25, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.. It will be held on 18th Avenue between 67th Street and 75th Street.

The Festa di Santa Rosalia, better known as the 18th Avenue Feast, or simply ‘The Feast’ has been a Bensonhurst tradition for decades.

The feast may be named in honor of the patron saint of Palermo, but to an increasingly diverse group of revelers the celebration transcends religion and even ethnicity.

For the past several months, gossip has abounded about the 18th Avenue Feast being cancelled. Recently, readers have contacted Bensonhurst Bean asking if there is any truth to the rumors.

While seeking answers, we discovered quite a bit of conflicting information floating around the internet.

Some residents, along with wikipedia, say the feast is finished. However, the Brooklyn.com event calender insists it’s on, citing the Feast’s Facebook page, which in turn cites Brooklyn.com.

Another Facebook page called We Want The 18th Ave Feast discusses the idea of the feast being shortened by a number of days. Upon investigation, this story seemed to hold the most water. According to a local official, the possibility of a downsized Santa Rosalia celebration may likely become a reality.

Bensonhurst Bean spoke with Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia who says that, although it may only run for one day, the feast’s prospects for this year look good.

“It is my understanding that the city is awaiting additional paperwork from the organizer, which I believe they are addressing,” Elias-Pavia told the Bean. “Regarding the shortening of the feast, the (city’s) website shows it as one day. Community Board 11 has not received any notification that there have been any changes to the permit.”

To many in the neighborhood and throughout the tri-state area who attend the yearly festival, a shortened feast would be better than no feast at all.

However, some store-owners on 18th Avenue say the traditionally week-long street fair has caused them nothing but headaches.

One store owner, who asked that her name not be used, thinks cancelling the feast would be a good idea – calling its annual arrival a burden for small businesses.

“A cancellation of the Feast would be excellent news, because the Feast takes a lot of business away from 18th Avenue merchants, who pay rent to be have stores on the Avenue,” she said in an e-mail. “The Avenue is closed to traffic, the sidewalks are filthy and the local merchants have to clean up, loud music and a rowdy element come to the Avenue. No one comes to shop the stores during the week or so that the Feast is going on.”

photo by Brian Hedden

Lately, the city also seems less than enthusiastic about traditional summer celebrations.

A number of street fairs in another Southern Brooklyn neighborhood have been called off this year – reportedly due to budget cuts.

According to the Brooklyn Paper, a total of four festivals in Flatbush – including street fairs on Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Avenue, as well as two on Church Avenue – were canceled after losing their sponsors.

When new sponsors came forward, they were refused permits by the city. Organizers were told by officials that the city is too cash-strapped to deal with the street closures.

Or maybe that’s just as far as Brooklyn is concerned?

In recent years, city government has promoted a variety of summer activities – some new – which require that public streets be closed. Most of these functions take place in Manhattan.

In the future, will Manhattanites, hipsters and tourists be the only ones allowed to dance in the street?

While street fairs can be a major inconvenience to merchants and residents alike, many still see the events as a chance to celebrate the warm weather, play games, eat and socialize with neighbors.

For now, it seems feast-goers in Bensonhurst have been issued a temporary reprieve – from what increasingly looks like the inevitable end of an era for working and middle class New Yorkers.