Chris Collett, the chamber's former executive director and a current board member, also spoke out on behalf of event.
"It's literally the life blood of the organization," he told the board.
The community board voted 14-11 to hold the street fair, but not without voiced concerns by community board members.
They said there were not enough police available to staff the event on a holiday weekend, the merchandise was questionable after police banned the sale of ersatz pistol lighters at last year's event and the community board has a guideline that an organization should be granted only one street event per year.
Since the Chamber of Commerce was already slated to host an arts and crafts fair in April, the Labor Day event would be its second and in direct conflict with the guideline, some members were quick to point out.
During the meeting, two other organizations petitioned the board to approve street fairs. The Forest Hills Visiting Neighbors sought the board's permission for a fair on 63rd Drive between Alderton Street and Queens Boulevard on May 12, 2001. Its petition was approved 27-0. The Forest Hills Rego Park Lions Club petitioned for the same site on Aug.19, 2001. The Lions Club was denied by a vote of 15-12.
"The issue we have is a bylaw," said Gail Gordon. "That's what this is really about."
She told Brown that nobody was against a street fair or questioned its intent.
"I think they're great, but this community board has a bylaw. We're responsible as a board to protect our community," she said.
Board member Mary Tschinkel offered a clearly frustrated Brown advice on how to make her street fair happen regardless of the outcome of the community board's vote.
"The reality?" she told Brown, "Go down to the mayor's office. Take an elected official with you and change the date."
But in the end, that was unnecessary.
It was later discovered that the bylaw restricting the number of fairs an organization was allotted was in fact a guideline, and it appeared that several members who voted on the chamber's petition flipped from no to yes because of it.
The board's chairman, Tom Hennessy, made one request, however. The street fair was to run along Austin Street from Yellowstone Boulevard to Ascan Avenue, which would block the entrance to a church, given that the fair was on a Sunday.
"Now you're blocking off the entrance to a house of worship," Hennessy scolded. "Have you discussed this with the pastor? Have you taken this into account?"
Brown had, in fact, discussed the matter with the church's pastor, but agreed to amend the petition at Hennessy's suggestion and curtail the length of the fair so as not to obstruct church services.
©2001 Community News Group
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