- A community isn’t defined by the proximity of its residents, but rather by the strength of their interpersonal bonds.
Last year, the Village of New Paltz attempted to create a space to strengthen these bonds. By closing sections of Church Street to vehicular traffic, the Village Board presented New Paltz residents with a chance to congregate and celebrate the culture of our little town. On seven different occasions between July and September, local vendors and bands showed off their talents to bustling crowds of onlookers and passersby.
The result was a miniature festival spanning the block. According to New Paltz Village Mayor Tim Rogers, the townspeople responded organically to the street closure, with local businesses adding their tables and music to the festivities.
Seeking to build on the success of last year’s celebrations, the Village Board is currently discussing plans to host similar street festivals by closing off Church Street from Main Street to Academy Street. This year, however, the proposed festivities would begin on May 7 and run every Sunday until October.
We at The New Paltz Oracle support any and all efforts by the village to fully utilize Church Street for festival purposes. As residents of the village, we are proud of the diverse talent in our tight-knit community, and festivals are the perfect way to express that.
These street festivals foster community pride by engaging residents in lively pastimes and encouraging them to further experience the goods and services of local businesses. This temporary boost to local businesses is especially vital in summer months, when tourism replaces most of the demand that college students usually provide. Closing Church Street to vehicular traffic will direct more foot traffic to the brick-and-mortar stores lining that stretch of road, as it has in the past. Likewise, the festivals also provide our local artists with economic benefits in the form of free advertising and sales bumps.
The proposed dates would also grant students from campus, who might otherwise go home for the summer, a chance to participate in the village’s celebration. As members of the broader New Paltz community, we look forward to reinforcing the town-gown relationship by getting involved with the people and places in our neighborhood. These miniature festivals serve as an opportunity for SUNY New Paltz students to feel as if the village is their home, as opposed to merely a place to live while they obtain their degrees.
It isn’t as if this sort of congregation of small businesses is new for the village. Water Street Market, further west on Main Street, operates full-time on a similar principle: that, as well as a business can do on its own, it can do even better in conjunction with other shops. The vendors of Water Street Market—the likes of which include Jar’d Wine Pub and the Cheese Plate—could further attract business to the market by setting up booths on Church Street during these festivals.
Additionally, the closure of Church Street from Main Street to Academy Street would do little to impede the mobility of drivers in the village. Main Street, though much busier than Church Street, isn’t really an efficient location given its steep inclines and roads congested with traffic. The section of Church Street intended for festivities, however, is out of the way of major roads, meaning those who routinely drive down that section of Church Street can easily alternate their path of travel during the festivities.
Past festivals have elicited concerns about disruptive volume levels, but those issues were “easily sorted out,” Rogers told The Daily Freeman earlier this month. Additionally, Rogers floated the idea of hiring a manager using fees paid by the vendors to set up stands on Church Street If the only major problem associated with these festivals can be fixed by turning the volume knobs slightly to the left, there’s little reason not to host them.
We are under the firm belief that every Sunday should be a party on Church Street.