J’ouvert, the annual all-night musical street party that precedes the Caribbean Day Parade, is going to be heavily policed, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced at a press conference at Medgar Evers College this morning.
Violence “has hijacked the celebration of the Caribbean culture,” Adams said. “We want to free the community and that culture from that violence.”
The push to crack down on J’ouvert, which until this year was the last major event in New York celebrated without an official permit, is driven in part by the death of Carey Gabay, an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was killed in the crossfire between two warring gangs during J’ouvert last year. “It became a point where the J’Ouvert celebration was defined not by bands, but by bullets,” Adams said.
Efforts to impose control on the evening will be complicated by the nature of J’ouvert. In addition to an established parade route through the Caribbean neighborhoods of Brooklyn, J’ouvert is also a rolling party that extends for blocks around the route and throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, encompassing block parties, house-parties, stoop-parties, and back-yard parties, all flowing freely into each other.
“Making J’ouvert safe is not a police job only,” Adams stressed, before outlining a coordinated effort involving, local clergy, business owners, community groups, violence-interrupters, and social-media hashtags.
But from the sound of it, the most noticeable change in J’ouvert this year is likely to be the police presence.
Chief of Department James O’Neill said he intends to substantially increase both the plainclothes and the uniformed details assigned to the parade this year. “I’m gonna end up doubling it,” he said. “I’m not going to get into concrete numbers here, but there are gonna be a lot more uniformed cops out on the route, and a couple blocks off the route.” An increased number of police vans will also be deployed as blockers along the route, he said.
Police are also taking steps to keep J’ouvert brightly lit. Where last year the department deployed 40 mobile light towers for the event, this year there will be over 200, O’Neill said, both on and off the designated route. Further away from the route there will also be marked police cars parked with their lights on, O’Neill said, to help “people see that there is a police presence, so that hopefully if theres anybody with some bad ideas coming through the event they’ll stop and think.” Marco Carrión, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Community Affairs unit, added that the city is asking businesses and homeowners in the area to keep their lights on through the night.
“The NYPD’s putting a lot of personnel in here, a lot of equipment in here, we’ll do a lot to keep everybody safe,” O’Neill said. “We’re not there to ruin people’s good time.”
Asked whether the NYPD anticipated cracking down on quality-of-life offenses like public drinking or smoking marijuana, O’Neill didn’t give a clear answer: “By doubling the size of the detail, having the uniforms out there, that will suppress a lot of the quality of life issues, as will the additional light,” he said.
Parole and probation officers will also be enlisted in the effort to bring J’ouvert under control, Adams and Bratton said. “Before the event we will be working with them to remind those gang members on parole and probation, ‘Hey, how ya doin’?'” Bratton said. “‘We’re here, we know you’re here, and just a reminder that there is a shared responsibility.’ So I think the population that they supervise can expect to see their probation or parole officer, accompanied by New York City police officers.”
The new, permitted, extremely well-lit J’Ouvert will be observed this year over the night of September 4th into the morning of September 5th. Stay safe out there, everyone.