Tuesday, September 25, 2007

San Gennaro Feast


a common plea in this new New York age

The San Gennaro feast, along with summer, has again come to an end. Gawker takes a look at where the carnies will go next and I wonder if the feast will return next year, as the neighborhood changes and the complaints from the locals mount.

This past spring, Community Board 2 voted not to provide the feast with a permit, claiming that nobody in the neighborhood likes the feast anymore. It's hard to tell who "nobody" is. Is it the Italians who've lived there for generations or the newcomers? Some opine for the days when the mob ran the feast like a well-oiled machine. Others just hate the inconvenience and messiness of this traditional cultural festival.

Walking down Mulberry today is to see little trace of Little Italy. It's more like Little Hamptons. I moved through the crowded feast along the sidewalk, walking between two very different worlds: the backs of the carnival tents and fried dough carts and the plate-glass windows of high-end boutiques.

a boutique shopper with her back to the feast

"The people who objected to the feast, they knew about it before they moved in," said local pastor Fabian Grifone in the Villager. "It’s been going on for 80 years. If they didn’t like it, they shouldn’t have moved here."

As our neighborhoods change, so do our community boards. This happened in the Meatpacking District. When people with money began moving in, they pushed out the transgender prostitutes and queer clubs. Now some of them regret that move. Having upset the equilibrium of the neighborhood, they cleared a broad path for the hordes of drunk, conspicuous consumers to swarm right in.

Something similar is happening to Little Italy.

You can read the relevant minutes of the community board meeting here and here.


Greg said...

I don't live in the neighborhood, and I agree that the board might be NIMBYs. But "traditional cultural festival?" Come on, at this point that's a huge stretch. It's just another crappy street fair with cheap socks for sale.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... there is some truth to the socks comment. But what other street fair can you get fresh cannoli at every corner? I haven't been to one.

Jeremiah Moss said...

true! along with other more traditional, not-so-americanized treats like torrone and bracciole. and, amid the socks and mozzarrepas, the very catholic idol-worshipping element is still quite strong. waiting for a reliquary of dried blood to miraculously liquefy doesn't get much more traditional/cultural.

Anonymous said...

Yes, when the mafia ran the San Gennaro Feast, things seemed to go well. Behave yourself, don't get too roudy and all is well. There was a mobster on every corner watching out for things. However, things do change. The old Italian band, playing the facist songs of teh 1930s was gone. The greasepole was gone (at least for a few years), etc.

But I remember that one year, probably in the early 80's, before that they had a number of these "side show" places, in particular one was to "watch the drug addict" It was disgusting to see that the Italian festival, which started as a couple of families roasting food, could wind up like Coney Island on a bad day.

The only ones who are there are the old timers. Few of the younger generation still live there. Most have moved to Brooklyn, SI or Jersey.

Claudia said...

Spent many years living on 10th Street just off Hudson. Grew up in Queens. On my last visit, I couldn't find Little Italy. I found a two block stretch of Italian restaurants - but Little Italy vanished like Brigadoon. And I still want to return to one more San Gennaro Feast. Sausage and Peppers on the street. Zeppoles. One more time before the Feast leaves for good.

Anonymous said...

The problem is the festival is still run by mafia douchebags, but they don't even live in the neighbourhood anymore - they're all living in New Jersey now. They don't care about anyone who does live there and are more interested in ripping people off. The city doesn't care either because of the fat checks it gets from all the taxes and permit fees. The food is shit too! They have better restaurants in the E Village.