Community Board 7 Puts Kibosh On Bi-Annual Upper West Side Crafts On Columbus Fair

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Vendor stalls on Columbus Avenue during a recent Crafts On Columbus

After nearly 35 years on the Upper West Side, Crafts On Columbus may be nearing its end.

The bi-annual event draws 100+ artisans to the stretch of Columbus between West 77th & 81st Streets twice a year — three weekends in the spring and thee in the fall.

Community Board 7, which oversees the UWS, recently voted to boot the fair from the neighborhood.

DNAinfo has the story, including these quotes from residents who live nearby and apparently pushed for the decision:

“We are not against crafts. We are not against crafts people. We are simply standing up because we believe that we have had enough,” testified Steve Anderson, president of a neighborhood association, who said he and his neighbors have been inundated by foot traffic.

“We feel that there’s been an overcommercialization of the park. We have that wonderful flea market that already exists,” Robin Epstein, who lives nearby, said, adding that she supported the 79th Street Greenmarket which sets up every Sunday.

People who live in the immediate vicinity of the fair are entitled to their opinion, but this strikes me as an odd move motivated by a vocal minority.

We’re talking about an event that takes place 12 days a year on the east side of Columbus Avenue adjacent to the Museum of Natural History — where there are no residential (or commercial) buildings.

I find it difficult to understand how this creates a major disturbance to residents in the area, especially in light of the fact that there is a Greenmarket on that same stretch of Columbus every single Sunday of the year (i.e. 52 times annually).

When Craft On Columbus takes place, the Greenmarket moves to the GreenFlea market space in the schoolyard located on Columbus between 76th & 77th.

So really, we’re not even talking about 12 days a year — it’s more like six when you factor in that NYC Greenmarket would be taking up the sidewalk for six Sundays if COC wasn’t there.

For the record, I have no particular love affair with Crafts On Columbus. I’ve wandered through the stalls a few times and have never bought anything. However, judging from the number of people who visit each year, it seems like a popular event and it’s curious that CB7 would vote to eliminate it based on feedback from what seems like a very small group of people.

I’m not at all surprised that there are people who aren’t fans of the fair — just about every aspect of NYC life has at least some detractors (I’ve got a LONG list myself). However, I don’t understand why CB7 decided to flex its political muscles on what strikes me as a generally innocuous event.

COC isn’t officially finished just yet. Organizers still have permits through the first half of 2014 — their Spring 2013 fair is scheduled to take place in May. After that, its future is unclear.

The Parks Department is responsible for issuing permits for events like this. It’s my understanding that they have the final say on the matter, and the CB7 vote is more of a recommendation than a binding decision.

I’m curious to hear other people’s thoughts on this — feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section.

Filed under: Community Board 7, Events, Manhattan, New York City, News, NYC, Openings/Closings, Politics, Shopping, Upper West Side, Upper West Side Blog, UWS 13 Comments »
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  • Donna Shepper

    I enjoy COC, and have made a number of purchases over the years. I like talking with the artisans, as well. I was surprised that the last COC was considerably smaller than in the past with no vendors going west on the street on the side of the museum. There are no commercial establishments on that side of Columbus. Community Board 7 is acting like a Grinch..

  • elizabeth

    Maybe they should focus on banning street fairs instead. Give me creative crafts over corn-on-a-stick and 10 pairs of socks for $1 any day!

  • Andrea

    I’m in your corner – always walk through there when it happens, bought maybe two things, doesn’t impact me if it is there or not but I agree, a very odd vote. Something strange going on at CB7. Hope the parks dept has clearer vision.

  • akissner

    Ugh. These people….

    I always just walk up the west side of Columbus if I don’t feel like navigating the market. Talk about frivolous.

  • Laura

    COC is a neighborhood highlight for me. I have attended almost every occurrence for 20 years and have purchased a lot from the vendors over the years. The quality is one of the highest of any NYC craft fair. It would be truly disappointing if it were no longer. I think Shake Shack across the street causes more inundation of foot traffic than COC! Is CB7 going to board up Shake Shack next? Maybe then petition to ban the inflation of the Thanksgiving balloons? COC is a beautiful, worthwhile event. Why disrupt it?

  • Mark

    I live directly across Columbus from where the fair takes place and it doesn’t bother me in the least. Would prefer they keep it. It is only 12 days a year. I usually walk thru it once, and then can easily avoid the crowd by staying on west side of Columbus..

  • Beth Aviv

    I love the fair. I don’t get there as often as I’d like — but i think it’s a bonus to the city and the UWS.

  • JK

    Go figure, a community board banning a community event. Why do they exist again?

  • Manhattan Hillbilly

    Great. We get rid of a charming little craft fair, but make sure that the weekly summer sock-and-sausage festivals go on unabated. What a neighborhood…

  • Monster

    How disgusting; Community Board 7 is its own worst enemy — and ours. The crafts fair actually promotes quality goods, as opposed to sausage and peppers, bad music, and crappy tube socks. It’s the one time of the year where you can buy something meaningful and unique.

  • whabib

    I have to say, I agree with you as well as most posters. I live on 79th near Columbus and have never found the fair to be any kind of inconvenience. I almost always walk through at least once, have bought some things in the past, and the goods do generally tend to be of decent quality. To boot, this fair doesn’t even block traffic, unlike the socks and sausage festivals which, in my opinion, should be eliminated. I’d go so far as to say that something seems fishy here.

  • Josephb

    Ok, everyone, let’s take a deep breath. The issue is simple. It’s not why but where. Most are in favor of the COC, but it’s a matter of where it’s located. So, why not compromise and simply move it to the schoolyard (green fleas) market on Sundays? Hopefully Greenfleas, which has become a FOR PROFIT, to my understanding, will provide reasonable rates to the COC. After all, Greenfleas occupies about 1/4 of the schoolyard for their vehicles. Therefore, we could keep the COC and the Farmers Market, and everyone could calm down.
    Joseph Bolanos
    Landmark 76-West 76th Street PARK Block Association

  • DutchUncle

    We make a point of visiting this fair, both for ourselves and for gifts. We usually stop in at one of the restaurants within a few blocks (and we’re members of AMNH too) so the fair brings more business to the neighborhood, which – despite any residential impact – is part of the reason for having distributed events in the first place. Otherwise they could all be in Bryant Park or something all year. This is a much higher-level event than the typical street fair, usually seems like a reasonably quiet event, and doesn’t kill traffic because it’s only on the AMNH/park side of the street.