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Parks & Public Spaces

Application from Madison Square Park Conservancy to conduct the Madison Square Eats: Spring Food Festival in Worth Square from May 13 through June 9, 2018, between the hours of 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM

WHEREAS, Madison Square Park Conservancy has submitted an application to conduct the Spring iteration of Madison Square Eats, their bi-annual food vendor market in Worth Square, the public parkland bounded by Broadway, Fifth Avenue, West 24th Street and West 25th Street; and

WHEREAS, The food vendor market would be conducted daily between the hours of 11:00 AM and 9:00 PM from May 13 through June 9, 2018, and would again be produced by Urban Space Management, producers of other retail events such as the Union Square Holiday Market; and

WHEREAS, Vendors are housed in tents on the perimeter of Worth Square, facing inward, with limited seating available inside Worth Square, and no pedestrian thoroughfare allowed for; and

WHEREAS, The market has a duration of two months of the calendar year (along with the Fall iteration), with only 20% of revenue going to the Madison Square Park Conservancy, whose charge it is to maintain Worth Square; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five has long had specific concerns regarding the festival, including:

WHEREAS, With each passing year, Worth Square and its immediate surroundings have become increasingly congested with pedestrian, motor vehicular, and bicycle traffic, which has resulted in a rise in traffic-related accidents and injuries; and

WHEREAS, In recognition of the increased dangers posed by the irregular street pattern combined with the excessively large volume of pedestrians that regularly spills into the street during rush hours, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) took the extreme measure of reversing the direction of traffic on Broadway on the block between 24th and 25th Streets, creating the first ever "shared street" in Manhattan; and

WHEREAS, The specific intent of the new street design is to create better and safer passage for pedestrians in an unusually crowded and dangerous area of the district; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five shares the concerns that DOT has expressed regarding pedestrian safety in this area and was extremely supportive of this pilot program; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five has grave concerns that the difficulties imposed by the Eats market are in direct conflict with the recent efforts DOT has made to improve the safety of our streets and sidewalks; and

WHEREAS, The Spring and Fall iterations of the event in 2017 were particularly problematic, including the event footprint moving past its intended location, an increase in issues with pedestrian congestion, a mere 18-inch width walkway for pedestrians along 5th Avenue, and an instance of a private employee parking a personal vehicle in the middle of the parkland of Worth Square throughout load-in; and

WHEREAS, In response to one concern, Applicant did return to Community Board Five with a proposal for improvements to the 5th Avenue pedestrian walkway: police barricades placed along the eastern edge of the walkway, to allow for three feet and eight inches of clearance; and

WHEREAS, Despite this improvement, Community Board Five recognizes that the minimum width for a sidewalk café in our district is eight feet, and sees no reason to hold Applicant to a lower standard than any other Applicant for any other food service operation on a public sidewalk; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five has not voted to support this event since 2013, given our outstanding unresolved concerns, but has instead taken an approach of working with Applicant to consistently request proposals for improvements; and

WHEREAS, Although under normal circumstances, an application for a one-off event garnering significant concern would result in a denial of support, in this case, Community Board Five believes it is most helpful to outline these concerns with an eye to the longer term, as the five-year contract for this event between Applicant and Urban Space Management is expiring this year, and therefore a new RFP will soon be issued, giving the public a distinct opportunity to weigh in on the most beneficial use of this public space; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five objects to a market of this footprint, duration and impact, and believes it must be redesigned or relocated to reclaim the value of Worth Square, which is a public space; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests that the Parks Department conduct a thorough review of the concerns outlined herein, including consultation with Community Board Five, before issuing an RFP for a new contract governing commercial activity in Worth Square, and that Community Board Five be given a role in assessing appropriate use for this critical public space.

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