Is the Bicycle Film Festival Block Party Bouncing to Brooklyn?

Photos: Stephen Robinson

After celebrating its 12th year in the East Village, the Bicycle Film Festival Block Party may be zipping across the bridge to Brooklyn.

On Saturday, the annual block party once again came to East Second Street between First and Second Avenues. But Brendt Barbur, its founding director, said that taking it to the streets of Manhattan had becoming increasingly daunting. “The city doesn’t make it as easy unless you’re a major corporation. It’s hard to do community events,” he said. “It’s kind of a bummer because we’ve been doing this a long time.”

Mr. Barbur said it might prove easier to rent a private warehouse or parking lot in Brooklyn, rather than dealing with the rules and regulations of hosting the event on a city block. “They changed the rules within the six-month permitting process,” he complained, declining to go into specifics.

The festival director hinted at one possible new location: “We like Fort Greene,” he said.

IMG_2276Stephen Robinson Bike race organizer Brian Barnhart with Brendt Barbur.

The potential move would be motivated, in part, by a perceived cultural divide between the two boroughs. “Certainly Brooklyn lends itself more to creativity and youth culture,” said Mr. Barbur. “I still live in Manhattan, and near my house, I think there’s like 20 chain stores. The type of people that live in Manhattan were living a suburban lifestyle before and they carry that on in their New York lifestyle.” Those suburban transplants, said Mr. Barbur, are less likely to come out for the film festival.

Turnout at this year’s block party was lower than usual. According to Mr. Barbur, 4,000 people attended the event over the course of the day, versus as many as 10,000 in previous years. Those numbers are consistent with Mr. Barbur’s notion about Manhattan bike culture, although he believed the summer heat was more of a deterrent to potential participants.

Despite the lower turnout, the block party was not without its usual fanfare. A bike race earlier in the day segued into a BMX trick exposé where locals showed off their talents on wooden ramps. Approximately 40 vendors shared their newest products alongside activist groups such as We Bike NYC, Transportation Alternatives and Time’s Up.

Mr. Barbur’s frustration with city bureaucracy may not ultimately prove strong enough to force the relocation of what he described as “one of the more authentic community street fairs” in the city. “It’s perfect to have it here,” he said of the East Village. “Everyone knows where to go. There are rides from the Bronx down here.”

And even if the block party does cross the river, Mr. Barbur expects to continue screening the films at Anthology Film Archives on Second Avenue. “It’s where we started,” he said.