NYC Mayor Says Street Fairs to be Considered but Not Likely for the Near Future

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio today said that he didn’t think the resumption of street fairs would be possible for the city’s entry into Phase 3 re-opening status. The statement would come in response to a question I asked on the subject during his COVID-19 Response Press Conference.

He also said that there would be considerations for that and the numerous other sorts of events involving large numbers of people. He would clarify by stating how hard it would be in light of the city’s fight to contain the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

The question came in light of New York City’s entry into Phase 1 tomorrow with an expected entry into Phase 2 in July or sooner. Considered, as well, was the fact that 200 – 400,000 expected workers would be returning to work during the initial phase reopening; as well as the many thousands that had taken to the streets to in recent protests, all in close proximity to each other. Protests which spanned well over a week’s worth of time.

When thinking about the above, one realizes that any thought given to allowing street fairs to take place by mid Summer isn’t as far fetched as some might think. The question needs to be raised as some point.

Of course, any consideration would’ve depended upon whether there were to be a spike of confirmed COVID-19 infections due to such protests as well as the increased number of commuters expected to make use of the NYC Mass Transit System.

There is no question that any exploration of any event with large numbers of attendants would require the wearing of facial coverings of some sort. In line with State and Federally mandated guidelines.

Details of Phase 1 and 2 industry guidelines are available at the NY State Governmental Site.

Amongst those businesses and activities considered for Phase 2 are open air restaurants and the return of workers to office environments.

Phase 3 is mentioned as including restaurants and food services.

Phase 4 is geared at Arts, Entertainment, Recreation and Education.

By looking at that list one might figure Phase 4 as being the appropriate time for the return of Street Fairs, if not earlier with Phase 3.

With 14 days of usually required time for a transition from one phase to another, that would place NYC’s Phase 4 entry at anywhere from mid July to mid August depending upon how we do with COVID-19 metrics. Today, I also asked the Mayor about the date of our Phase 2 reopening. He’d set the date beyond that which one would expect due to our standing as the center of the Health Crisis. Better to err on the side of caution.

When asking about street fairs, I mentioned to the Mayor how, of course, there could be limited capacity requirements for such events along with guidance for them to be unidirectional with vendor stands distanced farther apart. That idea isn’t really such an extreme one when considering how the subways are often likened to sardine cans. Tens or hundreds of thousands in the subway system for Phase 1, followed by many more during Phase 2, can’t compare to a dozen individuals, or so, over one block of city street; all traveling in one direction and wearing masks. Hand sanitizer dispensers could be placed at strategic spots.

It’s only recently that Governor Cuomo made mention of outdoor dining. Something which the NYC Council has been pursuing and which the Mayor ultimately stated would happen during Phase 2; right after the Governor stated it would be so. Local municipalities get to say what goes depending upon that which the Governor mandates.

So what are the chances that Street Fairs will find its way on to Mr. Cuomo’s lips. Might he the follow up by including it within future near-term guidelines? If he does, then would the Mayor, in turn, give it serious consideration? It’s not entirely unlikely considering how things have transpired over the past days.

For anyone unfamiliar, New York City’s street fairs have been a long time cultural tradition. With dozens of fairs and festivals taking place throughout the city’s five boroughs they’ve attracted countless thousands every year. Taking place during the warmer months, food, eats, goods and even the occasional bit of entertainment has been offered up at these events. Merchants count on the monies earned from renting a table and offering up their goods as do the organizers. At times, you’ll find the occasional fair set up specifically for the benefit of a non profit, church, school or other entity. As with most of New York’s non essential services, they never got to open for the 2020 season due to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic.

My exchange with the Mayor today:

“Mr. Mayor, … On the subject of Street Fairs.

I know it’s early and all but in light of how New Yorkers WILL soon be heading into the subways in greater numbers, do you think Street Fairs might be something to think about for a Phase 3 opening, considering how it’s in the open air and all. ?

You know, I was talking about this with someone and we were thinking that aside from obviously limiting capacity …. Another idea would be allowing only a unidirectional flow … meaning people traveling in one direction, much like what you see in some supermarkets now or distancing Stands further apart … “

Mayor:

“Street fairs – I don’t think so at this moment, Luis. It’s a bigger discussion, but we have to speak soon to the events in July and August, even into September, whether we think it makes sense to have large groups of people mass together. Yes, open air is better, but remember everything we’re talking about so far is with, you know, really carefully observing social distancing. Street fairs and big events make that really, really hard. It’s almost a contradiction. So we’ll consider it. But I – and I do need to speak to it soon, but I start with an assumption that that’s hard to achieve if we really are going to keep a lid on this disease, but we’ll keep looking at and we’ll speak to it soon.”