FAIR-LY BORING

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A report issued by the Center for an Urban Future this week finds the city’s street fairs generic, dominated by a small cadre of vendors selling identical items like funnel cakes, discount makeup and designer-knockoff purses.

The report says New York’s street fairs could be an excellent showcase for the city’s diverse businesses and artists, and urges the Bloomberg administration to overhaul the system governing the fairs.

At present a high percentage of vendors are not even based in the five boroughs, according to the report. The Center’s analysis shows that in 2005, just 20 vendors held nearly half of all street fair food permits, with seven vendors possessing more than 200 permits each. And of the 20 largest permit holders, nine were based outside of New York City.

Similarly, one quarter of all vendors with permits to sell merchandise other than food at this year’s fairs hail from outside the city. According to the report, one problem is that three large production companies are in charge of more than 200 of the 367 fairs in the five boroughs this year and have no incentive to diversify the mix of vendors. Meanwhile, many local businesses don’t know how to get involved with the fairs, and those that do often face bureaucratic obstacles.

The report recommends that the city ramp up its outreach to local businesses and artists about the opportunities that street fairs present, put the application process online and wrest creative control from the large production companies. For the full report, “Rethinking New York’s Street Fairs,” go to www.nycfuture.org. [08/07/06]