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Local Residents Try to Stop NYC’s Folsom Street East Shut Down

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Jun 15, 2012

Owners of luxury condos in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood are looking to have the city's biggest leather festival banned because it isn't family friendly, Vanishing New York reported.

Folsom Street East is as a nonprofit organization that produces fundraising events for the "leather/fetish/kink community, the LGBT community and New York City at large." The event's official website says "Our biggest annual event is the Folsom Street East street festival, the largest outdoor fetish street festival on the eastern coast, which brings thousands of sexy kinksters out onto the streets of New York City on a summer afternoon to celebrate sexual diversity and expression."

Some residents of the +ART building (posh condos that were created in 2008) on West 28th Street, near where the event is held, want the Folsom East Street Fair moved or even banned from the city.

"Residents from several surrounding buildings have passed fliers asking our residents to write to the Community Board to relocate or totally eliminate Folsom Street East because 'fetish' fairs shouldn't be allowed so close to so many residential buildings," a resident told Vanishing New York. "There's word that a petition of some sort will be circulated but I'm not exactly sure what the details are. A letter was written to the Community Board asking how they can assure residents access to the building without having to walk through the fair itself."

Folsom Street East is the East Coast's counterpart to San Francisco's enormous Folsom Street Fair and celebrates the city's "Leather Pride Week." Usually it is held on the last weekend in September but for the first time in 20 years the 2012 Folsom Street Fair will take place on Sunday, September 23.

The fair, which began in 1984, has grown as a nonprofit charity and has a number of events that involve backless chaps, mild whipping and spanking -- about the same level of raunchiness that appears on basic cable primetime.

Even though Folsom Street East will take place on June 20, some of the condo's residents say they will be forced to walk through the fair to access the building. The resident who spoke with Vanishing New York said they are concerned about the event's "lewd conduct" where "nudity isn't uncommon." "Those with children find it practically difficult," he added.

When the condos were first built, Vanishing New York notes that "there was nothing on that block except for a gay bar, a strip club, a scrap yard, a truck yard, and some auto body shops." The gay bar is New York's only leather-type bar, the Eagle.

When Folsom Street East was first held 16 years ago, people thought it was far enough on the island's fringe that it wouldn't bother anyone - the neighborhood was rundown at the time but clubs and gays began to move in the area. The well-to-do who wanted to live in an edgy neighborhood later discovered the area. After they moved, the new residents (some who have children) start to complain about the area. It has happened to a number of other locations around the country, including San Francisco's South Market, New York City's Meatpacking District and infamously Miami's South Beach.

The comments on blog site JoeMyGod reflected an frustration that many gay men (as well as other trendsetters) express about neighborhoods in transition. Miami's South Beach, San Francisco's Castro and South of Market, Boston's Charlestown and South Side, and just about every neighborhood in Manhattan not already upscale are examples of an urban pattern.

The middle class or industry moves out of a neighborhood. The neighborhood becomes rundown and dangerous. School performance decays. Urban pioneers (often, but not exclusively, gay men and lesbians) move in, renovate and rejuvenate the neighborhood, usually accompanied by nightclubs that aren't wanted in more sedate neighborhoods.

Well-off individuals and families (a/k/a "yuppies") who want to take part in the chic, edgy environment, begin to move in. Developers respond with expensive high-rise residential buildings. The newcomers complain about dirt, noise, and prostitutes ... everything that once made the neighborhood edgy. The urban pioneers, having been priced out, move to a destination unknown. For now.

"Its the same old story like those who move next to an airport and bitch about the airplane noise," one person wrote.

"This went on in the Castro. Gay people made the neighborhood safe and economically sound after all the past residents hightailed it to the East Bay. Then in come some straight families who moved there because it was a nice neighborhood and it starts," another reader wrote. "One writes into the B.A.R. and complains about the porn shops and what they put in the window. His poor child 'had to look at this stuff.' If you move near an airport and don't like the noise then you have yourself to blame. Thankfully, the new residents have learned to keep their mouths shut and appreciate a fun, quirky neighborhood for what it is."


  • , 2012-07-19 17:34:06

    Just another form of homophobia. Happens everywhere, GLBT community takes a rundown, abandoned neighbourhood, renovates it, and the str8s move back into the pricey condos we built, and complain that there are gay ppl in the neighbourhood!!!!!! If you’re homophobic, don’t move next door to a gay bar!?!?!?!?

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