Green space is limited in this city, to the point where, even though parkland is public space for everyone, neighborhoods come to think of a park as “theirs” and resent people who aren’t from the neighborhood coming and using it. So is it surprising that people who live in Williamsburg are already getting irritated about Smorgasburg and the Flea being held at the East River State Park? No, not really.
The Brooklyn Paper reports that residents are complaining that the crowds for Smorgasburg and the Flea make enjoying the park on weekends impossible. Residents are annoyed by what they say is excessive trash and the noise from vendors unloading and setting up their stations, and there’s even a think of the children quote, for those of you playing Brooklyn complaints bingo: “I’m not going to bring my son somewhere where there are 300 25-year-olds hanging out,” Peter Kos, one Williamsburg resident told the paper.
A complaint that probably isn’t on your bingo card is that the letting the Flea and Smorgasburg use the park is an illegal handover of a public park to private concerns. The president of the New York City Parks Advocates, Geoffrey Croft, characterized the outdoor markets as commercial ventures that have no place getting in the way of people trying to enjoy a quiet day in the park. He also floated the idea of a lawsuit over it.
It’s certainly a novel argument, and while it’s technically correct, it just doesn’t seem in the spirit of the policy of keeping commercial ventures out of parks. Smorgasburg and the Flea are the platonic ideal of local capitalism, and it feels like they should get out support, given that ghouls like IHOP and 7-Eleven are making quick inroads into the city. If you think the city should be getting more than the $1500/day that the Flea pays for its park space, that’s one thing, but as it stands, this looks like a case of NIMBYism running up against an event that isn’t really all that offensive.