If it’s up to some residents of Sunnyside, there will be no more street fairs on Skillman Avenue. At a community board meeting on May 3, two residents complained about inconveniences of the April 21 fair between 43rd and 46th streets.
“They applied for a spot in front of my business for a carnival truck, and it was so loud we couldn’t have a conversation,” Rita Lowry, the owner of Welcome Home Real Estate on Skillman Avenue, said at the board meeting. She also claimed that the food stands hurt business for local restaurants.
However, business owners on Skillman Avenue whom the Chronicle spoke to were not keen on banning the fair.
“It doesn’t bother me,” said Anthony Vlastos, manager of Skillman’s Famous Pizza.
Vlastos said the pizzeria still attracted the regular customers even though it was hidden behind the fair on the street. “It’s good for the neighborhood, we need these things,” he said.
The fair was put on by the company Clearview Festival Productions and sponsored by the nonprofit Kiwanis Club of Sunnyside.
Carole Vance, a resident of Skillman Avenue, said at the meeting that people had trouble getting to their homes and that it was impossible to find parking due to police barricades and no-parking signs. Vance and Lowry wanted to know how much money would go to charity to justify the inconveniences.
“Clearview is supposed to go to each store but apparently they haven’t,” board Chairman Joseph Conley said and encouraged the women to start a petition.
Mike DeBellis, the organizer of the fair from Clearview Festival Productions, said he was surprised to hear about the complaints.
“I was there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and no one ever complained to me.” He said the company got in touch with all the businesses a month before and offered everyone a free table. He added that he left driveways clear for the residents to be able to get out.
“This was a deal between us and the community board because there were too many events on Greenpoint where the fair used to be located,” the organizer said.
Clearview organizes four fairs a year in Sunnyside – two on Greenpoint Ave. and two on Skillman Ave. They split the profits on an annual basis with the Kiwanis Club of Sunnyside and three other local nonprofits, who all take part in the organizing.
“This fair is very important to us. We are all volunteers. If we don’t have the community support it will be really difficult for us to help,” said club President Carol Masiello. The local Kiwanis club, which was founded in 1946, runs a club for high school students and organizes annual events like a school children essay contest, a Valentine’s Day party for seniors, a Camp Kiwanis for Kids and the Sunnyside Flag Day parade.
“We can do a lot with little money,” she said.
Lowry declined to make any further comments on the issue. However, she said that the petition would proceed, but wouldn’t say by whom. It wasn’t possible to reach Vance for a comment.
Tim Chan, the owner of the restaurant Quaint, won’t sign the petition if there is one. He said he was offered a table for free, but since the restaurant doesn’t open until the evening, he turned down the offer.
Still Chan said he wouldn’t want to ban the fair. “I think it’s fun for the community.”
Jill Callan the owner of Petunia, a children’s clothing store across the street, did accept a free table in the fair. “My day was great,” she said.
bot only did she increase her sales but more people ended up inside her store – especially kids.
“I think the more the community tries to get involved and the more businesses participate, the better the outcome,” Callan said.
Her point of view was echoed by Dan and Tara Glasser, the owners of the vintage shop Stray on the next block.
“People were complaining that there were too many tube-socks and sausages. But if businesses sit back and don’t take part in it, that’s their fault,” Dan Glasser said. “If we had been at the council meeting we would have spoken against moving the fair.”
The couple couldn’t participate this year, but did so last year, which they said was both fun and lucrative.
Tara Glasser acknowledges that being located at the end of the fair didn’t expose them to inconveniences like generator noise and large inflatable bouncy castles.
“But there must be a way to keep it on the block,” she said.
They can both see why residents on the street might find the fair inconvenient, and all business owners acknowledged that the lack of parking spots on these occasions always cause irritation.
“But it’s two days a year,” Dan Glasser said, “and on this block we have a lot of businesses and it helps us. So I hope the residents will support that.”
If the petition does not move the fair, the next Clearview Festival organized Skillman street fair will take place in September. Meanwhile, residents and business owners with a thirst for fairs can take part in a string of scheduled ones in Sunnyside throughout the summer.
Upcoming street fairs in Sunnyside:
• Saturday, May 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., LIC Arts Open 2012, Single Block Festival on 22nd Street between 43 and 44 Avenue.
• Saturday, May 26 from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunnyside Woodside Lions Club Street Festival, on Greenpoint Avenue between 44th and 48th streets.
• Saturday, May 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. All Saints Church fair at 43-12 46 St.
• Saturday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. SS Reformed Church Spring Bazaar at Skillman Avenue and 48th St.
• June 9 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Strawberry Festival at All Saints Church along 46th St. from Queens Boulevard to 43rd Avenue.
• First Sundays, starting June 3 ending Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. St. Raphael’s outdoor flea market at 35-20 Greenpoint Ave.
• June 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Art Fair at Queen Of Angels, Skillman Avenue and 44th Street.