266 Elizabeth Street # 4    New York, NY 10012    Tel (212) 502 3591    Fax (212) 545-8161   Email little_italians@yahoo.com

March 26, 1999

Hon. Rudolph W. Giuliani
Mayor, City of New York
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor Giuliani,

The Little Italy Neighbors Association is a local community group committed to improve the quality of life in Little Italy by amplifying the voice of residents in their dealings with public officials and governmental agencies. Since its formation in April of 1998, LINA has also been active in negotiating solutions to disputes between residents and area businesses and in promoting a better understanding of the process of State and City governments among the residents of our area.

Since our inception, we have received many complaints concerning the operation of the Mulberry Street Mall. The Mall is the result of a practice, started in the spring of 1995 at the behest of some commercial interests, of closing Mulberry Street to vehicular traffic during weekends from Canal to Broome streets. It benefits some Mulberry Street restaurants by allowing them to extend table seating beyond what a Sidewalk Cafe Permit would allow and it increases the influx of tourists to the area. However, none of the economic benefits are felt by the residents, whose quality of life is nonetheless affected in a major, negative way. There was no public review of the mall before it became reality, as Manhattan Community Board 2 has remarked on numerous occasions, most notably, prior to the present, in a May 1996 letter to your office by Anthony Dapolito, Chairman of Manhattan Community Board 2 Committee on Public Sidewalk and Public Space. No public study was conducted on the impact of the closure of Mulberry Street on traffic patterns, economic activities in the area or the quality of life of the residents affected before the closure was enforced.

The Mulberry Street Mall is the only street fair in New York City not operated to benefit a charitable organization or a block association, it is by far the longest and in all likelihood, the most profitable. Last year (1998), the Mulberry Street Mall operated from the weekend before Memorial Day to the weekend after Columbus Day, 4 to 5 days each week, without an approved Street Fair Permit: if one exists, it was never exhibited to the NYPD Fifth Precinct, other government agencies charged with the supervision of the mall, or to the public. Although last year's Street Fair Permit Application states that the Mall would be concluded by 11 p.m. (12 a.m. on Saturdays) residents report that table service and the mall continued most nights into the early morning hours.

Through the years the mall has been in place, the Police Department has not been directed to increase their presence over normal patrols, although the mall attracts crowds of thousands every day it operates. This, together with the lack of any supervision by the mall organizers, has occasioned a status quo, in which abuses of all rules of common living become routine. Residents' reports include defecation and urination in public hallways of residential buildings (no portable toilets are provided by the mall organizers and restaurants refuse non-customers the use of their facilities); unchallenged public drunkenness and disorderly behavior; loud music blaring from restaurants' PA systems adjacent to residents' windows until 2, 3 a.m., when the carting companies take over. After the garbage trucks, delivery trucks, many oversize for the Mulberry Street Historic Corridor, continue to deny the residents their sleep. Ironically, vehicular access to their door or block is denied to the residents during the mall. Access to their own doorways is also often prevented by tables from restaurant operators.

Sanitation is an increasingly serious problem -- the restaurant operators do not clean up the space they occupy during the mall, raising rats' quality of life and allowing them to reproduce abundantly, which they have been doing every summer the mall has been in operation. The change has been felt by the human residents of Mulberry Street and the surrounding area. Residents of the surrounding streets are affected by traffic jams (and relative noise and air pollution) deriving from lack of access to Mulberry Street; by the lack of proper sanitation and by late night noises from rowdy parties living the mall, while the influx of visitors' cars makes parking impossible to residents. Emergency vehicle access to Mulberry Street is preempted: businesses occupy the entire sidewalk and put tables and props right in the street, forcing people to walk in a path in the middle.

Residents and LINA members spoke at the February Full Board Meeting of Manhattan Community Board 2, which passed a resolution requesting the Office of the Mayor to hold a meeting between mall organizers, city officials, and residents. A letter detailing the resolution and several telephone calls placed with the Office of the Mayor by the Chair of Manhattan Community Board 2 have produced a meeting scheduled for March 29 at 11:30 a.m. with Mildred Duran at the Street Activities Permits Office.

We believe that if you had been informed of this situation you would have taken decisive steps to correct it and we appeal to your intervention to bring back civilized living where it is being sacrificed on the altar of purported economic development: only a handful benefit from the way the Mulberry Street Mall is being run and they are ready to defend their entrenched economic interest at the expense of the living conditions of the people who live in the community.


Sante Scardillo for L.I.N.A.

Cc: Mildred Duran, Ass't Commissioner, Dept. of Street Activities
Rosemarie C. O'Keefe, Commissioner, Community Assistant Unit
Jules Polonetsky, Commissioner, Consumer Affairs
Alan Jay Gerson, Chair, CB2
Captain Stephen Spataro, Commanding Officer, Fifth Precinct
Kathryn Freed, City Council Member
C. Virginia Fields, Manhattan Borough President
Tom Duane, State Senator
Deborah Glick, State Assembly Member
Sheldon Silver, State Assembly Speaker
Martin Connor, State Senator