We knew it would happen, and now it's happening. Folsom Street East has been cancelled.
The organizers put out a message last night via Facebook and their website:
"It is with sadness that the Producers and Board of Directors of Folsom Street East have to announce that the 17th annual Folsom Street East Street Festival this June is going to be cancelled. Though we continue to receive support for this community-building and fundraising event from Community Board 4 and our neighbors on the block (including our producing partner The Eagle NYC), the ever-growing construction on the north side of 28th street has made it impossible for us to successfully and safely hold our annual street festival. Thank you for the years of support from our attendees, sponsors, partners, exhibitors, vendors, performers and volunteers; we are sad that we will not be able to celebrate Pride with you at our fetish-friendly event this year."
At the end of the message, they write: "Thanks for 16 great years celebrating sexual freedom with the Folsom Street East Street Festival, and we hope to see you back on the kinky streets of New York City in 2014!"
They don't say which streets and we can guess it won't be West 28th. Ever since the High Line opened in that part of town and Bloomberg rezoned it for luxury development, Folsom East has had a target on its back.
Here is a timeline of what has happened on this one block of West 28th Street since it became prime High Line real estate (click the dates for the full articles):
November 2010: A "High Line Boomlet" came to West Chelsea. The first residents of the +ART luxury condo moved onto this block of West 28th.
June 8, 2011: The second section of the High Line opened, bringing many tourists and other folks to a part of town they'd never before entered, including this once-industrial block, over which the High Line stretches.
June 19, 2011: High Line walkers got their first glimpse of Folsom Street East, right beneath their feet. Though the fair had been on this block for years, you had to be a part of it to go looking for it. At the time, I asked, "As the High Line spreads its luxurious seed across upper Chelsea, replacing every rough thing in its path with glass and glamor, how long, really, do you think Folsom will be allowed to party here?"
June 24, 2011: The Eagle gay leather bar was raided by the NYPD. They claimed the bar was the source of chronic noise complaints, but no such complaints were on record--only complaints about noise from all the condo construction. Around the same time, the massive Avalon West Chelsea condo tower broke ground right across the street, with advertisements proclaiming, "Don't miss your chance to be a part of the High Line!"
April 2012: We learned that another luxury condo tower would be coming to this block.
June 13, 2012: A resident of the +ART condo told us about the backlash against Folsom East, saying, "Residents from several surrounding buildings have passed fliers asking our residents to write to the Community Board to relocate or totally eliminate Folsom Street East because 'fetish' fairs shouldn't be allowed so close to so many residential buildings." Meanwhile, a slogan on the windows of the condo stated, "Chelsea is the birthplace of creative modern art and the home of bad behavior."
June 14, 2012: A representative from Folsom East responded to the backlash against them, saying they were doing everything they could to cooperate with the new neighbors.
June 17, 2012: Folsom East went on--surrounded by construction fencing and with a special path built for the condo people. Up on the High Line, tourists gawked like visitors to a freak show, while Christian right-wingers waved banners telling the fair-goers that only Jesus would save them from Hell.
January 2013: We heard that the scrapyard Central Iron and Metal, the last industrial business on the block, would be closing after 86 years in business. It sold for $65 million to a luxury developer.
March 2013: Not on West 28th, but still related, the Rawhide bar was driven out of Chelsea after 34 years of serving the LGBT and leather community.
Queer New York City has, once again, just gotten smaller. It's vanishing day by day. Don't blink, you might miss it.
Very soon, this entire block will be taken over by High Line culture, filled only with luxury condo towers and their occupants, with artisanal-foodie restaurants to feed them and high-end chain stores to fulfill their consumer needs. The Eagle remains, but for how long? In the end, Bloomberg's High Line always wins.