Yesterday we heard from a resident of one of the luxury condos that have recently gone up along the High Line on formerly desolate West 28th Street. He told us about how the new residents are trying to shut down the Folsom Street East festival, now 16 years strong in Chelsea. I got in touch with Susan Wright, Media Liaison for Folsom Street East, and asked for her response.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you found out from my blog that the new condo residents of West Chelsea have been organizing against Folsom East?
A: We were surprised because we haven't been contacted by anyone. Folsom Street East is a community event, and is eager to work with the neighbors. We observed certain issues last year, so one of the ways we have adjusted the fair this year is to provide a 5-foot-wide sidewalk along the buildings that goes from 11th Avenue down to the condos at 540 W. 28th Street. That way residents don't have to walk through the attendees in the street. They will be able to walk alongside the buildings and enter their own home as usual.
Q: Residents are petitioning the Community Board to eliminate or move the fair. Has anyone ever complained directly to the organizers of Folsom East?
A: Folsom Street East has not received any complaints from anyone about the fair.
Q: How do you respond to the people in the new condos who don't want to see nudity and "lewd" acts from their windows? Or who don't want their children to witness the fair?
A: The attendees at the fair must follow our Code of Conduct, and that includes no lewd acts or full nudity. Attendees are allowed to wear street-legal clothes, which in NY city is fairly liberal, as it should be. There are some entertainment pieces that take place on the stage, at the other end of the block, that enter the "burlesque" realm, but legally it doesn't fall into the "lewd conduct" category. Security volunteers are in place to be sure that all the rules are followed by the attendees.
Q: The residents have also suggested that Folsom move "to the next block where it's bordered (for now) by commercial on two sides, Con Ed to the north, and West Street." If anything, I think that could only be a temporary solution, because certainly more condo development is coming. What are your thoughts about this suggestion?
A: Folsom Street East is willing to work with the community to ensure our fair is low-impact. We would be willing to discuss any potential options with Community Board 4 and the neighboring community. However, the current location adjacent to the Eagle is ideal for this street fair, and moving would cause difficulties.
Q: How long has the fair had its home on West 28th?
A: Folsom Street East has been on West 28th for 8 years, ever since we moved from our location outside the Lure in the Meatpacking district.
Q: How did the fair get started and what is its mission?
A: Folsom Street East is a celebration of the SM-Leather-Fetish community in New York City. Like the great Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, we thought New York City should have its own leather street fair.
The BDSM-leather communities should not be pushed underground, and sponsoring our own street fair is a way of highlighting the existence of our community and the fact that we must fight against persecution and stereotypes every day. Folsom Street East is a nonprofit event run by volunteers--all of the funds that are raised are donated to charity. The three beneficiaries this year are the LGBT Center, the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.
Q: What do you think is the future for the queer and kinky of New York City? What will the city lose when this culture is pushed out?
A: Leathermen and women will never leave New York City! We are as much a part of New York as bagels and the Empire State Building. What would New York City be without its diversity? Folsom Street East intends to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we can continue to come out as a group and celebrate our culture.
Come on down to Folsom Street East [this weekend] and see for yourself the spirit of togetherness and celebration that inspires Folsom Street East.
Folsom East and the Eagle
Folsom Under High Line
Eagle Under Siege