Street Fairs

The City's Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) has proposed changes to the way street fairs are permitted and regulated. The new rules are a major improvement and we applaud Mayor de Blasio for taking on this complex issue; we support the proposal’s overall direction but do have some key suggestions for ways to improve it so that street fairs are regulated in a fair and common-sense way. We believe the City should:

  • Adjust the proposed rules to allow for a more data-driven determination of street fair locations and distribution.
  • Allow those communities that want and welcome specific street fairs to have more of them.
  • Close potential loopholes that could distort the intended impact of the rules.

Click here or scroll down for more details on this plan.

What can you do? 

  • ENDORSE OUR PLAN: Click here to add your name to our list of stakeholders supporting street fair rules that are more fair and more rational.
  • Submit comments directly to SAPO by web, email or mail no later than October 27th. Find instructions here.

Make Street Fairs Fair:
Times Square and Street Closures – The Facts

Street fairs, which may be desirable in many neighborhoods, completely overwhelm ours

Street fairs in Times Square create an excessive burden on an already overburdened neighborhood. Near-weekly street closures have caused extreme congestion, hurt local businesses and overwhelmed the area. In defiance of common sense, the part of the City which is the busiest and among the most traffic-congested on weekends has more street fairs than any other.

Street fairs can be positive in many instances and are welcomed and wanted in many neighborhoods. They sometimes benefit worthy non-profits. However, the disproportionately high number of fairs in the Times Square area negatively impacts, rather than benefits, our community.

We applaud the City for seeking a more equitable distribution of street fairs. We think the rules need to be modified in some important ways to reflect the concerns of other neighborhoods and non-profits, but agree that the current system is too driven by a handful of large, for-profit commercial producers, rather than the needs and concerns of neighborhoods. In addition, the Alliance is willing to work with the legitimate neighborhood non-profits affected by potential rule changes to address their needs.

Times Square and Street Fairs: Far more congestion, and yet far more fairs as well

  • Times Square is already extremely dense and congested.

    • Times Square is 0.1% of NYC’s land area, but contains its highest density of theaters and hotels (95% and 21% of the City’s total, respectively), and has a greater concentration of subway stations and ridership than any other neighborhood.

    • Peak pedestrian traffic is 480,000 per day, more than any other neighborhood.

    • Theaters and hotels are especially dependent on customers who arrive by car or bus, especially on weekends.

    • Times Square is one of the 10 busiest areas for taxi drop-offs in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

  • Unlike other business districts and much of Manhattan, Times Square is busier, not slower, on weekends.

    • 54% of weekly Broadway attendance is crammed into the two days street fairs occur -- Saturday and Sunday.

    • 38% of Broadway attendees come by vehicle for a weekend matinee vs. 24% for a regular weeknight show.

    • Weekend vehicular traffic in Times Square often exceeds weekday traffic, unlike other parts of Midtown.

    • On weekends, taxi drop-offs are more clustered around Times Square than on weekdays (mostly due to theater and hotel-goers).

    • Times Square’s concentration of entertainment options, totaling 64,409 seats (47,635 Broadway seats; 7,851 movie theater seats; and 8,923 comedy club, off-Broadway, music hall and attraction seats) make it much busier on weekends than virtually any other neighborhood, both day and night.

  • Yet despite the intensity of weekend activity, Times Square has a disproportionate number of street fairs.

    • Times Square is 11.8% of Community Board 5, but has 51% of CB5’s multi-block street fairs.

    • Times Square represents one-tenth of one percent (.1%) of the city’s land area, yet has ten percent (10%) of all street fairs citywide.

  • Making visitors to the city needlessly exasperated threatens thousands of jobs and millions in net new spending.

    • The very people inconvenienced by street closures who come to NYC to visit Times Square’s hotels, theaters and restaurants on weekends brings net new dollars – and tens of thousands of jobs -- to NYC’s economy.

    • Times Square’s actors, stagehands, musicians, hotel workers, and restaurant employees all depend on Times Square’s thriving tourist economy, which supports 354,000 jobs and $5.5 billion in state and city tax revenues.

    • If there is a terrorist incident, response times for emergency vehicles will be severely impaired.

Proposals for a more equitable, rational and data-driven distribution of street fairs

Adjust the proposed rules to allow for a more data-driven determination of street fair locations and distribution. Having a common cap on street fairs per community board is an equitable approach, but should be supplemented by additional data-driven analyses of the impacts on traffic and safety, especially at peak times and places. Ultimately the City, rather than event producers, should decide on street fair locations and footprints, based on community and agency input.

For certain categories of streets or avenues determined to be “Excessively Burdened” at certain days of the week or times of day, as indicated below, the City may engage in additional level of analysis which may result in the denial of a street fair application for a particular location at a particular time. Streets or avenues shall be determined to be “Excessively Burdened” if they meet two or more of the criteria below:

  • Criteria 1: Streets or Avenues with the worst traffic under normal, non-closure conditions, relative to other comparable streets and avenues.

  • Criteria 2: Streets, avenues, or segments of Avenues which feed directly into at least three streets with a disproportionate number of hotel, entertainment and transit uses which are both vehicle dependent and have significant egress/exit needs.

  • Criteria 3: Streets or Avenues in Districts with a disproportionate number of Street fairs

  • Criteria 4: Streets or avenues which the NYPD determines as having a disproportionate number of venues requiring emergency response access in the event of an incident.

Allow communities that want and welcome specific street fairs to have more of them. Many neighborhoods want street fairs. One way to assist street fair producers and neighborhood non-profits they support is to allow either the 50% local requirement or the cap per community board to be waived with respect to a proposed street fair if three or more of the following request it:

  • The Community Board

  • The local Councilmember(s)
  • The Borough President

  • The BID where the fair would take place

Close potential loopholes that could distort the intended impact of the rules. Several provisions are needed to ensure that the rules fulfill their intention:

  • Street fairs on a street or avenue that borders two community boards should count towards the total cap for both districts. For example, an 8th Avenue street fair results in significant traffic displacement for both 6th Avenue and 10th Avenue traffic.

  • Multi-block street fairs in Manhattan should not be longer than the distance between major two-way thoroughfares (eg 34th , 42nd, 57th Streets). No multi-block street segment between such thoroughfares should be used more than once per year, nor should any single-block be closed for a street fair more than twice a year. If there is a street fair on or next to a block with a 500+ seat theater, it must be cleared by 7 pm.

  • Require street fair producers to disclose gross revenues and actual amounts contributed to affiliated non-profits for each street fair.

Who's endorsed our plan?

  • The New 42nd Street
  • Rendezvous restaurant
  • Roundabout Theatre Company
  • Auntie Anne's Pretzels
  • Barbetta Restaurant
  • Hilton Times Square
  • Jujamcyn Theaters
  • Broadway Association
  • Sherwood Equities, Inc.
  • TBD Theatricals LLC
  • Saint Luke's Lutheran Church
  • The Broadway League
  • D3 LED LLC
  • W Hotel Times Square
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton-Times Square
  • Hyatt Centric Times Square NY
  • Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
  • Spectacular Cities
  • New York Marriott Marquis
  • The Katz Company
  • The Lambs Club restaurant
  • Donna Bell's Bake Shop
  • Martinique Jewelers
  • Meson Sevilla Ltd.
  • Grand Slam New York LLC
  • Invicta
  • Starbucks
  • Hellenic Holidays, Inc.
  • Jamestown LP
  • Glass House Tavern
  • Havana Central Restaurant
  • Nederlander Producing Company of America Inc.
  • Project FIND
  • Carolines on Broadway
  • 810 Deli Inc.
  • The New 42nd Street, Inc.
  • Stuart Thompson
  • Richards/Climan, Inc.
  • Charlotte Wilcox Company
  • Junkyard Dog Productions
  • Le Bernardin
  • Dodger Properties LLC
  • Playhouse Square Center

In November 2015, the Alliance testified at a hearing related to an earlier version of proposed changes to these rules. We expressed support for these amendments, which would limit street activity that require a street closure in the Times Square neighborhood. You can read that testimony here.