Street fair expos

Todd Berman, president of Clearview Festival Productions, defends tube socks and Mozzarepas.

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So, out of the approximately 350 street fairs a year in New York City, how many are Clearview responsible for?
Throughout all the boroughs, about 80. Ninety-nine percent of [those fairs] benefit local not-for-profit organizations.

Local in what sense?
Local to the neighborhood. We work with civic groups, we work with business groups....We work with all sorts of different groups.

Who would you say is the audience for your street fairs?
Every neighborhood is distinctly different. If we do an event in midtown, it’s tourists coming to the event; if we do an event in Astoria, it’s local people coming out for the day.

How do you select the vendors for your fairs? It seems like a lot of the time there’s the exact same vendors at every one—the Mozzarepa guy, the Italian sausage guy...
A lot of the community boards have asked us to make an effort to make these events different. Because there’s been a lot of—let me say it positively: Down in the Village, they don’t want the events to be as commercial. They don’t want the tube socks and the T-shirts and the tourist-related stuff. There isn’t always a tube sock person. When we come into a community, we’ve been offering all the merchants on a particular strip the first opportunity to participate, before any outside vendor. If we bring the [local] merchants out onto the street, it takes on a whole different feeling. We’re trying to encourage as much community flavor at the events as possible, you know? If the merchant doesn’t take advantage of that opportunity, we try to fill that space with a noncompeting [vendor].

What do your street fairs really bring to the community?
I have to say something: They’re not my street fairs. We are hired by the not-for-profit agency to manage their event. They tell us what they want, they tell us what they don’t want. It all depends on what the goals and objectives are of the group. There are some groups out there [looking] solely for fund-raising. And then there are other groups looking to promote their neighborhood. The objectives are totally different from group to group. And they dictate to us what they want and what they don’t want.

Do you ever feel competitive with some of the other, more localized fairs and markets, such as the Atlantic Antic or the Brooklyn Flea?
I’m not threatened at all.

Because it seems like there’s been a lot of press lately in favor of these sorts of locally organized events and in opposition to your type of fair.
I think the thing that I want to stress the most is, there’s been some publicity, and what happens with publicity is, usually [the media] just takes one blanket and throws it over everything. Look, if you do an event in midtown, the target audience is totally different, okay? You have tourists in midtown. They want tourist-related items, commercial items. That’s what they’re looking for. And is there room for improvement on some of the others? Absolutely. And we’re on it. We have put that ball in motion, on several different fronts, and we’ve been very successful with it. We have an event on the Upper East Side which is the Bastille Day event, sponsored by the French Institute on 60th Street, and that event consists of just French restaurants from throughout the entire city and crafts.

Do you feel like there are any other street fair organizers who are not trying to involve the community?
That’s a great question; I have to be very diplomatic and not answer that. [laughs] I can’t, but that’s a really good question.

Now I have to know: What is in those Mozzarepas that makes them so addictive?
[laughs] I have no clue.


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