STATEN ISLAND — Organizers behind a failed Russian festival planned for earlier this month in Midland Beach say they were never able to get the event off the ground because of
"discrimination" by neighbors who never wanted to see the event happen.
Anna Pekerman, CEO of Russian-language station Danu Radio 87.7 FM in Brooklyn, planned a free event to celebrate Russian culture on Sept. 9 at the Midland Beach parking lot near Hunter Avenue and Father Capodanno Boulevard.
However, she said she was never able to get any traction with the event once word became public, saying she had to withdraw her application from the Parks Department under pressure from neighbors still angry about an unruly 2007 Russian festival which Pekerman said she had nothing to do with.
"They said that there were problems there, they had a lot of complaints based [on] that event," Pekerman said. "I'm very upset that they're lumping all Russian people together."
Pekerman said she attended the 2007 event, which advertised itself as "Staten Island's First Annual Festival," according to the website was was sponsored by groups including the Russian Radio station Davidzon and Staten Island Community Center.
According to sources, the 2007 event was rife with people bringing illegal alcohol into the event, leading to unruly behavior with the crowd. The city was hit with noise complaints and vendor complaints, sources said. Sources said that Pekerman was involved in the 2007 event.
The city's Parks Department confirmed that they received an application for the 2012 event from Pekerman, and said they worked with her before she withdrew it.
"We also walked Ms. Pekerman through the event permitting process and what she would need to do to comply with Parks’ rules and regulations regarding large events," said Tara Kiernan, spokeswomen for the Parks Department. "The event organizer did not want to comply with these rules and decided to cancel the event. Parks did not deny any permits."
However, Pekerman blamed community backlash against the event and "discrimination" against Russian Americans in the neighborhood.
She said her station, Radio Danu, also recently hosted a similar festival that featured live music, DJs from the station, Russian food and more at Brighton Beach in August, which Pekerman said went off without a hitch.
"Unfortunately, when you feel some much resistance it kind of kills the spirit," she said. "We were met with so much resistance, we did decide to not go forward with it."
This is not the first time Staten Islanders have sparred over Russian events.
In 2009, plans to build a community center on an empty lot in Sand Lane, spearheaded by a local Russian group, were derailed after residents gave it the thumbs down.
South Beach resident Joanne Bennetii, 64, was quoted at the time saying at a civic association meeting about the plan, "This is just going to be another damn Russian thing," the Staten Island Advance reported.
"You don't know what it is to feel like a foreigner in your own neighborhood."
Even with support and $4 million from local politicians, the community center never got past the resistance from the community and was replaced by a Key Food supermarket under construction at the former arcade site, according to the mayor's office.