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Graham Avenue goes crackers over Fiesta

The Brooklyn Paper
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This fiesta needs a siesta!

That’s what merchants on Graham Avenue in Bushwick are saying about Saturday’s multi-block party that brings as many as 50,000 people to the thoroughfare — but doesn’t bring any money.

“It doesn’t help the businesses!” said Jose Reiser, who owns a menswear store between Moore and Varet streets. “You know who it helps? The guys who sell hot dogs, shish kabobs, and pina coladas! People drink and dance, but how can you spend money when the road is closed to traffic?”

Other merchants had similar complaints.

“Say for example I sell $1,000 a day — I sell $600 on Fiesta day!” said Young Kim, the manager of a department store called “Bubble K.”

“It’s killing businesses — no merchants like it!”

But the top dog of the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District said that the fiesta — which features 11 bands and plenty of other attractions — is a longstanding boon for businesses, and that merchants just need to take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

“The merchants that don’t like the fiesta — do they do fliers? Do they advertise at all?” asked Betty Cooney, the executive director of the BID. “I can’t make them take the opportunity, but we need the visibility.”

But other business managers said the visibility comes at too steep a price — especially when loads of vendors come from outside the neighborhood and set up tables in the street, drawing attention away from the stores.

“Saturday is a main business day,” said Sheik Diop, the manager of Shopper’s World. “[Vendors] set up right in front of the store with loud music.”

Diop said he tolerates the other vendors, as long as they aren’t selling the same products he sells inside his store.

“The perfume people — they know they got to move,” Diop said sternly.

But Cooney insisted that all vendors have the option to move their products out onto the street if they wish and that the BID had taken a survey last year that showed that a majority of merchants was in favor of the Fiesta. She added that some of the frustration may stem from the numerous parades that shut down the stretch of Graham Avenue from Broadway to Boerum Street during the summer.

Reiser’s complaints reinforced this issue.

“We have so many parade days!” he said, laughing. “We got the Latin American Unity one, the Puerto Rican, Three Kings, Mexican, Dominican — we don’t have a Cuban parade — yet!”

Graham Avenue Fiesta [Graham Avenue between Broadway and Boerum Street, (718) 387-6643], May 15, 10 am-6 pm

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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