2010-03-12 / Community

RMAC Festival Ends 26-Year Run

By Howard Schwach

Each September for 26 years, the Rockaway Music and Arts Council’s Fall Festival graced the green fields of Gateway National Recreation Area, first at Fort Tilden and later at Riis Park.

No longer, however, will the two-day festival that traditionally drew tens of thousand of visitors to the park, be held.

“It’s all a question of money,” says RMAC president Stephen Yaeger. “The council was unable to keep up with the high fees charged by Gateway National Recreation Area, NPS, for the use of the Gateway Park facilities. Coupled with fees for insurance and other incidentals, our Executive Board had no choice but to cancel the festival.”

Yaeger told The Wave this week that for more than 20 years, the local arts organization was charged nothing for using the park’s facilities both for the Fall Festival and also for the highlysuccessful Summer Sunset Picnic series that ran on alternate summer Sundays.

“We had a partnership with the park, and they understood the good that the events brought to the community and to the park,” Yaeger says, adding that the fees began three years ago.

“Last year, the park charged us $14,000 to hold the festival at Riis Park,” he said. “Six months later, they gave us nearly $4,000 back, but the costs were just too high,” adding that all of the organization’s money comes from fundraising, the festival, and grants from local politicians.

He says that the grants dried up last year along with the budget crisis and the scandals involving local politicians.

The money received from the festival was largely used to fund the summer concerts, he said. Now, with that money dried up and the park service demanding $850 a concert up-front, those concerts will have to be cancelled as well.

“The fees just broke our back,” he said sadly. “Park officials have no idea what an urban park is supposed to be about. We are not Yellowstone or Grand Canyon. This is a community park.”

“We have been doing this for 26 years,” Yaeger concluded. “We brought more people to the park than any other organization, and now it all ends over money.”

“Take a look at the Golden Gate Urban Recreational Area in San Francisco,” he said. “They do everything for the San Francisco community. It seems to me they do more on the other coast than they do on this coast, and that’s a shame.”

Yaeger said that he made his case to several local politicians, including Congressman Anthony Weiner and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. He says that none of the politicians responded to his plea for help.

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