Changes coming to Bensonhurst's Santa Rosalia Feast

One of Bensonhurst’s time-honored traditions, the Santa Rosalia Feast on 18th Avenue, will have a different look in 2014, if the city goes along with a set of recommendations made by Community Board 11.

The community board is asking the city to shorten the route of the Italian-flavored street fair by two blocks, District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia announced at the board’s Nov. 14 meeting. The board would also like the festival reduced by two days, so that it would run for eight days instead of 10.

Under the community board’s plan, the route of the street fair would run for six blocks along 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to Bay Ridge Avenue (69th Street). In previous years, the festival route stretched for eight blocks, from Bay Ridge Parkway to 67th Street.

The festival, which has always operated for 10 consecutive days, ending on the day before Labor Day, would instead end on the Friday before the holiday under the board’s proposal.

The changes are being recommended to alleviate sanitation issues and parking problems on and around 18th Avenue, according to Elias-Pavia. Shortening the festival’s schedule by two days would ensure than the Department of Sanitation will have enough time to sweep the streets and get them clean before Labor Day, she said.

Truncating the street fair’s length by two blocks will actually improve it because “vendors could be located closer together,” Elias-Pavia told the community board. In previous years, the various food stands and game booths that make up the festival were spread out far apart from each other, she said.

Shortening the route will also “allow for more parking,” Elias-Pavia said.

The Santa Rosalia Feast, which Bensonhurst resident refer to as “The Feast,” is sponsored by Figli di Santa Rosalia, a non-profit organization of Italian-American civic and business leaders.

The feast is held in honor of Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo, Sicily, the area from which many of Bensonhurst’s Italian-Americans can trace their roots.

In recent years, the festival has been plagued with problems. The New York Daily News reported that in 2011 the event was canceled due to glitches involving street-closure permits and tax documents.

The event was threatened with cancellation again in 2012, but the sponsors straightened out their paperwork problems to save the feast in the nick of time and festival went off without a hitch. The feast took place again this year.

The Santa Rosalia Festival is a Bensonhurst tradition dating back 70 years. But times are changing in Bensonhurst, giving rise to concerns about the event’s long-term future.

While festival-goers enjoy strolling the avenue munching on sausage and pepper heros and cannolis each year, the neighborhood that hosts the festival has been steadily changing over the past 10 years. Italian-Americans, who for years were the largest group in Bensonhurst, have been moving out of the community in recent years. The neighborhood is now home to large numbers of Chinese immigrants and Russians.