Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn stunned by loss of outdoor summer festivals

July 15, 2020 Jaime DeJesus and Raanan Geberer
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“New York is known for its summer street festivals,” said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO at New York Building Congress and 2018 grand marshal of the Feast of Santa Roslia in Bensonhurst. “The Giglio Feast in Williamsburg and Saint Rosalia and the Caribbean Carnival in September and Feast of San Gennaro, so it’s just a lot of things I think New Yorkers are going to miss this summer.”

He was talking about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent announcement that all large outdoor events requiring a city permit will be canceled through Sept. 30.

“As New York has begun its reopening process, accessible open spaces are more important than ever,” said de Blasio several days ago in a statement. “While it pains me to call off some of the city’s beloved events, our focus now must be the prioritization of city space for public use and the continuation of social distancing.”

Of these outdoor events in Brooklyn, the West Indian Day Parade and Carnival on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day is the best known, attracting millions of people from all over the world.

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However, there are other Brooklyn outdoor summer events that also attract large crowds, such as the Summer Strolls in Bay Ridge, the aforementioned Feast of Santa Rosalia in August, and the Great Irish Fair in Coney Island, whose website says will be “shifting to a virtual event”

Scissura expressed concern for the vendors who depend on working at these events.

“There are vendors who spend the whole summer going feast to feast, making money,” he said. “I’m worried that there are going to be hundreds of vendors and thousands of people that won’t have work this summer.” The same could apply to musicians who entertain people at the festive events.

An online article from NY1 details how the cancellation of the West Indian parade has been devastating for the designers of the colorful handmade costumes that revelers wear. Groups of people spend all year making costumes adorned with feathers, beads and other ornaments.

The article quotes designer Marlon Smart as saying, “What is hard is that we put a lot of money up front. I have spent about nearly $20,000 just getting stuff ready, buying materials, doing prototypes.”

This year’s Feast of Santa Rosalia in Bensonhurst in August has been canceled. Photo: Brooklyn Eagle File

The Feast of Santa Rosalia in August, which runs along 18th Avenue from 67th Street to Bay Ridge Parkway, would have marked its 44th year. A description of the feast an edition of last year’s Brooklyn Eagle described “fan favorites such as rides, music, games, drinks and of course, a vast array of food, with Lucy’s Sausage stand being a favorite.”

Scissura said hosting a smaller-scale Santa Rosalia festival is unlikely.

“It’ll be very difficult,” he said. “The good thing is we are going to shoot to do a Mass and a small procession, and at least we will have the religious part of it.”

Also canceled are four Summer Strolls that normally take place on 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge in July and August. Describing one Summer Stroll last year, the Eagle said that it had “something for everyone, including great food thanks to local eateries, activities for the kids, musical entertainment and more.”

The colorful Mount Carmel Feast in Williamsburg, whose centerpiece is the lifting of the giant “Giglio” statue by a crew of 130 men, was already canceled in May by Pastor Jamie Gigantiello of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Carmel, which sponsors the festivities.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share that the annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in July has been canceled. I, along with the Feast Executive Committee, reached this painful decision recognizing that the safety of our Parishioners and Feast Family is our number one priority,” he wrote at the time.

According to the Mayor’s Office, events that do not conflict with Open Streets or Open Restaurant areas and are for locations one city block or smaller can still apply for a permit.

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