Annual Italian Festival Dividing Community

NEW YORK (CBS 2) – The annual San Gennaro Festival runs for 11 days through Little Italy and Nolita and an estimated 1 million people attend the feast every year.

Despite the festival’s popularity, some residents call it a nightmare.

“Trash, noise, breaking the rules. So many people. Just complete chaos. I don’t even want to be here,” resident Courtney Hewitt said.

The tradition that started more than 85 years ago has drawn so much negative attention that members of the Community Board 2 are trying to cut down the festival. Instead of running seven blocks along Mulberry Street to Houston, it would stop three blocks short at Kenmare.

Some business owners in Nolita said the party kills their profits. Because the festival runs from 11 a.m. until 12:30 at night on the weeks, all the chaos scares off would-be shoppers.

“It killed our business pretty much for two weeks out of the summer, which should be our busiest time,” Emily Snell, of the Paul Frank Store, said. “It’s unfortunate for business owners around this area.”

San Gennaro Festival

The San Gennaro Festival runs 11 days in Little Italy and Nolita. (Credit: CBS 2)

For those who sponsor the Feast, trying to turn Mulberry Street into Madison Avenue won’t work. It’s the folks moving into their neighborhood who need to adapt.

“It’s an 85-year-old tradition. When these people rented their stores, rented their apartments, it was here. It wasn’t a secret come September the streets were going to turn into a carnival,” Figli Di San Gennaro board member Ernest Magliato said.

Figli Di San Gennaro board member Bob Marshall calls the celebration an integral part of the neighborhood’s culture.

“If they cut it three blocks this year, what are they going to want next year? It’s sort of a starve the beast if they can get it out and what they’re trying to do is to change the culture of the neighborhood,” Marshall said.

Organizers said the feast has raised nearly $2 million for children’s education in the last decade, and they’re not about to let the celebration or the charity get cut short.

The festival runs from Sept. 15 through Sept. 25 and both sides said they’re ready to fight it out to the end.

For now, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office has the final say on whether the feast will run its full seven-block route or get cut short.

More from Cindy Hsu
  • Barry Roik

    Thanks for providing such information. njvgojkgf

  • Gregory Obarski

    Gregorio says,
    Please do not keep the festival the same size. EXPAND IT. YES, EXPAND IT.
    When we were growing up in Williamsburg Brooklyn in the 50’s we went to
    the Feast of the Giglio a few blocks away. There we ate zeppoles and Italian ices by the …………… and watched as dozens of the faithful together carried a holy statue nearly the size of the empire state building. As kids we also marched in countless parades (either with the American Legion, or our Grammar School — our choice was always with the Legion). We even paraded from Brooklyn into midtown Manhattan and then down to the Village, and the celebrations (rest stops at taverns and ….) were everywhere along the way. Then at night followed huge catered affairs with live bands. There were no DJs. So Expand the Feast – Ring in the Living – Out with the Sterile.

  • Fed Up

    Don’t change the culture of the feast. If it were an Indian festival, no one would say a word. Italian-Americans have rights, too.

  • mack 4

    Sophia is spot on. This bygone event has become little more than a hyper, over-commercialized intrusion to the community, desperately and deceptively propped up as an “Italian cultural” festival– this attribute is mythical at best, delusional at worst. Gennaro is an unsubstantive, 14 day ATM machine that benefits NO ONE but those who directly profit from it. Compromise was asked for, and was answered by profanity, degradative pejorative and offensive language, all manifested by continual false impressions and deceitful rhetoric by the event’s proponents, who represent but a small fraction of the community, and who by majority DO NOT even live in Little Italy.

    We will not be intimidated, nor will our voices be silenced.

  • mack 4

    The decision in Virginia suggests that health insurance is like any other commodity, and the federal government does not have the authority to force us to buy it. Specifically, Judge Hudson stated that the government lacks authority “… to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market.”

    The crux of the matter, then, is involuntarily entering the stream of commerce.

    Alrighty, then; what about involuntarily bleeding to death? What about a case of involuntary HIV? What about involuntary meningitis, or heart failure? Few people I know volunteer for medical calamities. Medical calamities are, quite predictably, involuntary. And there’s the rub.

  • sophia

    The Figli San Gennaro Board Members are misleading the public when they claim to donate 2 Million Dollars to education over the past decade. It seems quite unlikely. If you actually review their last two tax reports for the years 2008 and 2009, you will see that they donated a mere $63,000 dollars. In addition, they refuse to provide the Community Board with a breakdown of these charitable donations. Also, their 2009 tax return doesn’t break down their expenditures. For example, it doesn’t even include expenditures paid out to Mort & Ray Productions — the company that runs the feast.


    • LisseyJo

      First of all are you a member of the IRS or something? Do you have correct knowledge of their tax statements of what the board contributes. And what
      the hell do you care if it’s $63,000 or 2 million? What do you donate to the city?
      And when you think that the italian people or board members think that the NYC
      community are fools or scared because of “the hostile threatening tactics they engage in.”
      Well, you have just proven yourself to be a sterotypical racists. And as an italian woman, I am offended.

  • JR

    Anybody who moved into the neighborhood AFTER the feast started should have no say in the matter! You can not move to someplace you know has an issue then complain about the issue!

  • Merlin

    The feast ended on Kenmare for most of its existence. It was extended to Spring about 10 years ago, and has only gone to Houston for the past five years or so. So if someon moved into Mulberry and Prince more than five years ago, they have a right to complain. I think it should stop at Spring because that is the end of Little Italy.

    • John A. Fratta

      Listen Merlin, my Great Grandfather was one of the founders of the feast. IT ALWAYS WENT TO HOUSTON STEET. And by the way the Little Italy bounderies, based on the Little Italy Special District and now the Little Italy Historic District goes from Canal Street to Houston Street.

    • CHERYL


    • JR

      I agree with your take.



    • John A. Fratta

      The feast NEVER ended at Kenmare Street. Get your facts right Billy.As a matter of fact, the feast used to go from Worth Street to Houston Street.

  • Rugbyball

    This is funny, the things that probably brought these people to the neighborhood is exactly what they want to change.
    If you change it, it wont be what you moved here for in the first place.
    Then years down to road when you shortened or killed off the feast, you will complain it has turned into a boring neighborhood. :-)

  • Allie F.

    The festival is one of the great NYC traditions. As many have stated, for 85 years it has been a part of the culture, heritage and fabric of the city. Please, do not kill the fun and historical events of New York. That is what makes this city great! That is why I love NY!!!!

  • Jeff Rosen

    Don’t they know that they can turn up in a trunk outside JFK Airport? :)

    • John A. Fratta

      I want to thank those that are expressing spport for the Feast of San Gennaro. Most of you hit the nail on the head. These new people moved into Little Italy, knowing exactly what the neighborhood was all about. Including the Feast of San Gennaro and the Mulberry Street mall. No one moves or opens a business on 5th Avenue that doesn’t like parades, one every weekend in the Summer. No once opens a business or moves into the Village that doesn’t like night life. We;; the same should go to moving into Little Italy. If you don’t like festivals and tourists don’t move into Little Italy.

    • Sarah

      Exactly what I was thinking! Wrong people to mess with!!

      Also, some of those stores never have any shoppers anyway because of the merchandise they sell. This is not hindering their profit; the junk they try to sell is keeping them from making a dime!

  • Non Italian from New York

    I hope the Mayor has the strength to keep the Festival as it is. San Gennaro Festival has been around for 85 years. Let us hope it remains for another 85.
    It seems that “Harbin” has a bias against Italians. Sorry for him.

  • FC

    I have been to that festival. I really don’t see why they need 7 blocks. There are very little differences between the first vendor on the Canal street to the last vendor on the Hudson street. You see the same kinds of merchandises and food sold by different vendors in these short 7 blocks. Actually this festival is really kinda boring itself.

  • JJK

    What will be next if they cut this short? The Halloween Parade? The street fairs? The Art Festivals and outdoor concerts? I came here from Ohio 30 years because it had character–because it was so different from everywhere else in the U.S. It wasn’t just the character of the neighborhoods, but also the diversity of its people, food, culture, events, small businesses–EVERYTHING. It had edge. People from all walks of life could find somewhere in the city to fit in. Now it’s turning into a chain-ridden strip mall with nothing but tall buildings and landmarks to draw people in. Bloomberg and Juliani have ruined the city in almost every way, and New Yorkers should be mad as hell and not take it anymore.

  • John G

    Just another typical attempt by TRANSPLANTED wanna-be NY’ers to destroy all the unique character this great city has developed over the last few HUNDRED years! I am sick and tired of these out of towners who think they know what’s best for the city, arrogantly spewing their unwanted opinions on what is “good” for NY the moment they relocate here. These are the same morons who gladly move into a “hip” neighborhood like the East Village 20 years ago and then started complaining about the noise from bars and clubs at night! The same people who price the REAL NY’ers out of the city, then have the audacity to complain that all “character” is gone. Give me a break! NYC has pandered to them for so long now, we hardly recognize this place! And it’s NOT just Manhattan either! It’s happened in all five boroughs! Self-centered, conceited, know-it-all babies who are used to getting what they want or they throw a tantrum.

    • nanci

      I couldnt agree more. It is like now that they live here let’s change it to what their town is like BORING. Leave it alone. Dont like it too bad. It happens once a year. Deal with it. thank you John G. I agree 100%

  • dico j.

    The feast has been here for 85 years. Everybody knew that coming in….DEAL WITH IT.

  • Claire Leone Skody

    As previously commented, “It was here. It wasn’t a secret come September the streets were going to turn into a carnival,” If shop keepers and residents weren’t willing to deal with it, they shouldn’t have moved in! My family looks forward to coming into Manhattan from Queens, for the feast each and every year. This is part of our tradition, back off!

  • Raymond P Gallagher

    Regardless of who does or does not benefit from the festival, it has been there for generations.

    To those people who moved in knowing it was there and don’t like the festivals impact… moved in knowing it was there, need to do better market research.

    It is like the people who try to block parking spaces near their home next to a school that was there 20-100 years before they moved in. If someone parks there tough. You knew you had to share. Be a good sharer or get the hell out (move)

    To those loud and obnoxious people who feel it is their right to be loud and obnoxious….grow up. To those business owners who enable the loud be obnoxious — do the right thing….. cut them off or call the NYPD.

    To the NYPD……….. I wish it was the days of old, when my Dad and Uncles were on the beat. If you were a smart loud and obnoxious person you left when you saw the baton tapping the open hand of the PO. If not, you felt its sting on the largest muscle in your body or if you were real nasty on a bony part, which hurts more.

    • aldous huxley

      One hundred percent correct, my friend!

      In fact, I’m voting for Raymond P. Gallagher for Mayor next election !!


    Enough already with killing New York City. Chelsea USED to be the night club hot spot. The baby cart pushers killed that. Hell’s Kitchen used to be the elegent seedier part of town. The tea totalers killed that. Little Italy used to be so much bigger. Ge Xer’s took away all the blocks. Times Square used to be an adult playground. Disney Execs killed that. This city used to stay up all night. Now everyone’s sleeping by midnight. If people don’t like NYC, then don’t live here. Go back to the outer boros or the jerzey burbs. Allow NYC to be alive and awake again.

    • mar

      thats because ny is being populated by people that haven’t EARNED their right to be here.

    • aldous huxley

      Exactly – we have become such a politically correct society that we are losing the things that make life interesting. It seems that we have to make everything in life KID FRIENDLY. Ugh …

      They did it to Las Vegas – turned it into Disney World for the whole family. They’re doing it to NYC.

    • nanci

      NYCWOLF… What make you think the outer boroughs want these new people? they too are killing what was once great about it… I hat that they are ruining everything. I miss a lot of things like you but I think the one thing is true- SEND EM TO JERZEY

  • majory

    Leave it as is and establish entry requirements – for example – the only people that can attend are those whose forefathers have earned the right for their families to be in this country. the forefathers who fought in WWI ,WWII, Korean War, Vietnam etc. All freeloaders can go back home!!!!!!!

    • KEL




  • Joe D

    When I went, I did not enjoy the feast because it was over crowded. The other million people seemed to enjoy it just fine. If you reduce the area, it will be even more crowded because the same number of people will have to fit into a smaller area. It is exactly the same situation as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. I say leave both of these traditions the way they are.

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