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July 11th, 2005, 05:53 PM
Guyanese Festival Shuts Down Riis Park

By Brian Magoolaghan

Access to Jacob Riis Park was cut off last Sunday evening when a record number of visitors, the vast majority attending a Guyanese festival, overwhelmed local roads, the parking lot and parks staff.

District Ranger Rita Mullally said between 45,000 and 50,000 visitors – a number not seen since the 1980s – turned out for the festival forcing the closure. Visitors came from as far away as Canada and Ohio for the massive event.

About 8,000 vehicles, many of them containing six passengers, filled the parking lot to near capacity, while other visitors came by public bus and dollar-vans, Mullally said. Comparatively, about 2,500 vehicles used the parking lot on July Fourth.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic stretched from the park, over the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and past the Belt Parkway entrances on Flatbush Avenue when people began to leave at about 8 p.m., police said. Mullally described a "mass exodus," which tied up both north and southbound traffic for hours.

"It looked like a major rock concert had just let out," remarked one Neponsit resident who got caught in the mess while returning from upstate.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who attended a picnic and concert in Fort Tilden, was delayed more than an hour and a half by traffic. He made his displeasure known.

The overwhelming crowd also left a hefty amount of trash and clean-up work. Ballfield 1 was covered with broken glass. The National Park Service was also left with a tab of $10,000 in overtime expenditures.
The festival "was just too big for the facilities," Mullally told The Wave this week after the NPS held a postmortem meeting to discuss just how the festival, which was expected to draw only 1,500, grew so large.

The NPS and the New York City Police Department had advance notice on the festival – organizers from the Guyanese-American Ambassadors Association (GAAA) filed a permit weeks in advance and paid $6,000 for the privilege of inviting 1,500 guests to ballfield 1, but the growing mass overflowed westward past the bathhouse. NPS officials said large "splinter groups" turned out and the GAAA, the original permit holders, insist they had no idea that their numbers would be so great. The GAAA could not be reached for comment.

The NPS is not pursuing further compensation for their unexpected costs, Mullally said.

The Wave found several Guyanese websites promoting large-scale "family festivals," but none for Riis Park.

This is the fifth year that the group has organized a festival on the Sunday following July Fourth; about 15,000 people attended last year, according to NPS estimates.

Despite the huge number of visitors and the frustrating traffic, the NYPD and U.S. Park Police said that there was just one arrest made in connection with the event.

"They were incredibly well behaved," said a 100 Precinct officer who was detailed to the park for several hours.

Guyana is located in northern South America and has a population of about 700,000 people. There are about 211,000 people born in Guyana living in the United States, according to the 2000 Census Bureau statistics.


Mondays are usually messy, but the weekend litter is confined to the parking lot. The following photos don't really convey the level of garbage that remained on Monday morning.

7AM, but the cleanup began at 3AM.
http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/3192/guyanariis013pl.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis013pl.jpg) http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/8339/guyanariis023wp.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis023wp.jpg) http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/5722/guyanariis034vm.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis034vm.jpg)

The NPS staff requested that no glass be brought to the grounds.
http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/2101/guyanariis045rx.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis045rx.jpg)

Rockaway Beach Blvd. The ballfield mentioned in the article is at the building with the smokestack.
http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/779/guyanariis058nl.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis058nl.jpg)

The recently renovated bathhouse was barricaded, and spared any damage.
http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/6903/guyanariis072uf.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis072uf.jpg) http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/6818/guyanariis064pi.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis064pi.jpg)

The permit did not include the beach. There are usually more birds, but many were at the buffet.
http://img110.imageshack.us/img110/277/guyanariis087qc.th.jpg (http://img110.imageshack.us/my.php?image=guyanariis087qc.jpg)

July 21st, 2005, 07:36 PM
Plus all that trash feeds the rats. :(

July 21st, 2005, 08:04 PM
Come down to Broadway south of Houston on any given weekend afternoon if you want to see garbage strewn about...

Not that I blame the folks moseying along the sidewalk with their sodas & coffees & ice creams...there's just no place to put the trash.

It's amazing to me that the city can't get it together to supply adequate trash cans, especially in areas where it has been shown that by the end of the day there will be trash from doorway to gutter all up and down the street.

And, of course, it doesn't get swept up until the next morning when the businesses re-open.

I guess I could get myself a broom...

July 21st, 2005, 08:27 PM
I agree. They could do a lot of areas twice a day on weekends.

July 7th, 2007, 08:18 AM
The 2005 festival was held at Riis Park. Last year it was Floyd Bennett Field. This year the permit was denied.

July 7, 2007

A Party Is Off, but Who’ll Stop the Guests?


By sundown last July 9, the park police were running out of ideas. The permit allowed for 1,500 attendees, but the crowd had swelled to 40,000, nudging the person-to-port-a-john ratio to a vertiginous 2,200 to 1. Revelers pitched tents, hammering stakes into the asphalt runways of Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. Several set up barbecues in the visitors’ center.

The event was Guyanese-American Family Fun Day, a yearly celebration that began 11 years ago with 30 people and grew exponentially, largely via word of mouth.

Lisa Eckert, superintendent of the Jamaica Bay Unit at the Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Floyd Bennett Field, said she knew she was in trouble last year when buses started arriving from as far away as Ottawa and Washington, D.C.

Last year’s throng led to this year’s dictate: Guyanese-American Family Fun Day, which would have been held tomorrow, is off. Or so Ms. Eckert hopes.

The National Park Service took out advertisements in The Daily News and several local West Indian publications saying the event would not occur, and denied a permit to the men who organized it last year. Still, Brian Feeney, a spokesman for the park service, said he had no idea how many people would show up tomorrow.

“Word on the street is that this is going to happen,” Mr. Feeney said. When the park service offered its own contact number to people confused about the event, “our phones were ringing off the hook,” he said. Some callers “wanted it clarified. Others flat-out argued with us, and told us the event was on.”

The move has bitterly disappointed some in the Guyanese community, who say the yearly gathering gave them a taste of the country they left behind.

At Family Fun Day, even the most Americanized children would address elders as “Miss” and “Mister,” said George Poulis, of the Guyanese-American Social Club, which organized last year’s event. It was not uncommon for expatriates to run into old friends they had last seen in Guyana. Godfrey Wray, editor in chief of Caribbean Impact, said this year’s crowd could easily have reached 50,000.

“Guyanese like to enjoy themselves in large quantities,” said Mr. Wray, whose newspaper, based in Brooklyn, has advertised the event in the past. “If you have one household that has four cars, all four cars will be there, because they will want everyone to see their fancy car.”

Mr. Poulis and John Chapman, last year’s organizers, are cooperating but remain angry about the cancellation. Mr. Chapman said they paid $6,200 for a permit last year. After the event ended, the park service sent them a bill for $67,000, saying that was the cost of cleaning up Floyd Bennett Field.

Mr. Chapman said the sum was “ridiculous,” and said partygoers would have cleaned the area themselves if they had been given the chance. The organizers did not pay the bill, and when they applied for a permit for this summer’s Fun Day, they were denied.

As for complaints about the size of the crowd, Mr. Chapman said, no one should have been surprised. The previous year’s Fun Day, held at Jacob Riis Park in Queens, attracted a crowd of up to 35,000. The issue has been covered repeatedly in The Wave of Long Island, which reported an attendance of 45,000 to 50,000 at the 2004 Fun Day.

“We told them over and over, it is going to be large,” he said.

Mr. Poulis said he had made every effort to inform people not to come this year, but could not guarantee that everyone knew. Claire Goring, who organizes another event, the Guyana Folk Festival, said people had been calling “from all over the country” to ask about Fun Day. Regular attendees “are at a loss as to whether the celebration will be there or won’t be there,” said Latchman Budhai, a former president of Maha Lakshmi Mandir, a Hindu temple in Queens.

“A lot of people made plans to come from Europe and other states in America to be there,” said Mr. Poulis, who added that he and his wife planned to leave town for the weekend. “I have no control over that. I will not be around.”

Park officials said the decision was straightforward: To accommodate a crowd of 40,000 safely would require “hundreds and hundreds” of officers and 260 port-a-johns, Mr. Feeney said. (Twenty port-a-johns were provided last year.)

The crowds at Floyd Bennett Field last year were so dense that an ambulance could not have reached someone suffering a heart attack, and because the field is not lighted at night, departing vehicles could have hit pedestrians or other cars, he added. When officials climbed up on the stage at 7 p.m. to stop the band from playing, glass bottles began flying in their direction.

“The event was out of hand,” he said. “It created an unsafe environment. It created chaos.”

Over the weekend, Ms. Eckert said, park authorities will turn away vehicles from Riis Park and Floyd Bennett Field after they reach capacity levels of 4,500 and 3,000, respectively. She said she had heard no complaints about the decision.

“I have no idea, because no one’s called me,” she said. “It’s very possible that people didn’t realize they were on federal land.”

Some Guyanese interviewed were offended by the news. Albert Baldeo, a lawyer in Ozone Park, Queens, who is running for the State Senate, said the park service had “sent the wrong message. Other groups can meet socially in large gatherings. Why are they being picked upon?”

But Mr. Wray, who has attended the event for years, was sympathetic. The crowds had become so huge that some drivers were blocked in by other vehicles for three or four hours at the end of the night. Last year, he said, he was turned away because of the crowd, and left willingly.

Guyanese-American Family Fun Day “got too big,” he said, in part because the culture places such a premium on celebration. He added that there was no reason the gathering would not have kept growing. “The next time,” he said, “a Guyanese would say he had a lovely time, so the Jamaican guy would come along.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

July 7th, 2007, 08:34 AM
It's amazing to me that the city can't get it together to supply adequate trash cans, especially in areas where it has been shown that by the end of the day there will be trash from doorway to gutter all up and down the street.


July 9th, 2007, 03:53 PM
Trash. One of my BIGGEST pet peeves. I know here in Paterson, some streets look like a landfill. It just piss me off to see people just drop their garbage on the ground. I wish we can at least give perps 20 lashes for this..

July 13th, 2007, 12:20 PM
Trash. One of my BIGGEST pet peeves.

Agreed. Is it so hard to hold onto something and wait until you see a trash can to throw it away? It especially bothers me when people leave newspapers strewn about on trains, throw cigarette butts/straw wrappers on the ground, etc. The garbage in Manhattan has been bothering me a lot more now that I have been to Tokyo, which is immaculate in comparison and has some of the most crowded locations in the world.

July 17th, 2007, 12:32 AM
Trash. One of my BIGGEST pet peeves. I know here in Paterson, some streets look like a landfill. It just piss me off to see people just drop their garbage on the ground. I wish we can at least give perps 20 lashes for this..

The trash issue is half the residents' and visitors' fault and half the local government's inability (or lack of desire) to clean it up properly.

If you ever take the 190 NJT bus to the city, you can always tell when you are crossing from Clifton into Passaic without even looking at the street signs. The amount of trash on the sidewalks grows from zero to disgusting because keeping streets clean is low on the list of priorities for Passaic's Mayor and City Council.

July 17th, 2007, 04:55 PM
^^ I know what you mean JG. Same thing with coming from Clifton to Paterson. It goes from nice and clean to just trashy. I'm sick of it. I'm going to let the city know how I feel about it, too.

PS. you take the 190 to the city? Why? Just take those dollar bus that run down Main St./Ave. You'll get there much faster and cheeper. Though, you'll be packed in. :)

July 18th, 2007, 12:15 AM
PS. you take the 190 to the city? Why? Just take those dollar bus that run down Main St./Ave. You'll get there much faster and cheeper. Though, you'll be packed in. :)

Actually I usually take the 192 because it goes right by my house, but it does not have as good off-peak service as 190, which makes that line my second best option. I also have a monthly NJT pass, so the Spanish buses are not cost-effective for me, although I've taken them before!

July 20th, 2007, 02:20 PM
Just take those dollar bus that run down Main St./Ave. You'll get there much faster and cheeper. Though, you'll be packed in. :)
Tell more about these. Are they officially licensed and sanctioned? Who runs them? What do they look like? Do they turn a profit? Photo?

July 24th, 2007, 02:47 PM
They're legal, but some drivers drive like assholes. Here is an article from the Herald News (http://northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MCZmZ2Jl bDdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5NzE3MzIzMiZ5cmlyeTdmNzE3Zjd2cWVlRU V5eTI=).

July 26th, 2007, 01:30 PM
A potentially promising new transportation source?

What would it take to run these up and down Manhattan's avenues, and on some crosstown routes?

How are bus stops handled? Do you just flag down the bus and let it block traffic?

September 9th, 2007, 09:54 PM
They are pigs and dirty dogs

September 9th, 2007, 10:54 PM
Ablarc they have dollar cans in the outer boroughs, and we have them here in Hudson County that predominately run from JSQ into Northern Hudson County. Yes you just flag them down and get on.