The street fair is a hallmark of summer and a powerful means of inviting people to share the city’s most ubiquitous public space. But for most New Yorkers, the sight of fried dough and Italian sausage carts inspire little more than an eye-roll and a step in the opposite direction. Once vibrant gathering places that reflected the rich diversity of New York’s neighborhoods, today’s street fairs are mass-produced affairs that offer little variety and even less opportunity for local vendors to participate.

The Atlantic Antic in Brooklyn is one of the sole New York street fairs today that truly reflect the local community.

Even in their watered down state, street fairs still attract crowds because of the novelty and pleasure of mingling in the street. But there is little doubt that they fail to live up to their true potential. With this in mind, the Center for an Urban Future gathered 25 New Yorkers of all stripes—architects, developers, artists and other innovative thinkers, including PPS President Fred Kent—to brainstorm “New Visions for New York Street Fairs.” One central theme ran throughout the report: by showcasing local merchants, organizations, home cooks, gardeners and kids, street fairs could be “a great opportunity for city neighborhoods to show off.”

Share some of your examples of great street fairs in the comments below.

Reimagining New York City’s Street Fairs as Community Showcases was last modified: March 6th, 2012 by Craig Raphael