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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.


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