This year’s J’ouvert parade, the West Indian celebration which in the past has been marred by violence, will get beefed up security on par with what the city sees during New Year’s Eve at Times Square, New York City officials said Monday.
Access to the parade route, which stretches from Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, south down Flatbush and eventually to the Midwood section, will be controlled through 12 police check points with magnetometers. As done in Times Square, revelers will be screened for weapons and alcoholic beverages and backpacks and other large bags will be prohibited.
“J’ouvert is a celebration of Caribbean culture, and the NYPD is committed to making it safe for everyone,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday announcing the measures.
To further control access, some 300 additional uniformed officers will be on duty, an increase of about 10 percent over the usual compliment of cops on duty, said officials.
J’ouvert celebration occurs in Brooklyn in the hours of September 4 before the massive West Indian Day Parade on Eastern Parkway and meanders down Flatbush Avenue ending in the Midwood section. The J’ouvert event usually began around 4 a.m. but parade organizers — J’ouvert City International — decided to push the start time to 6 a.m. in an attempt to reduce the potential for violence, O’Neill said.
Last year 22 year-old St. John’s University graduate student Tiarah Payou was struck and killed by gunfire at the tail end of the celebration. A suspect, Regenald Moise, now 21, was arrested on second degree murder charges and his case is pending, said a spokesman for acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Earlier that morning, high school student Tyreke Borel, 17, was killed by gunfire as he sat on a bench near the celebration.
Payou’s killing came a year after Carey Gabay, 43, an attorney who was an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, was hit by gang gunfire as he tried to duck for cover as shots rang out during the celebration. Four suspects have been arrested on various charges stemming from Gabay’s death, officials said.
The deaths of Payou and Borel last year sparked calls by some community advocates and politicians for an end to J’ouvert. As a result, parade organizers sat down with police, city hall, neighborhood groups and politicians to come up with a plan to enhance security. Special “violence interrupters,” mostly former gang members who have reformed, with work the parade route to pre-empt and resolve street disputes, police said.