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City Shoots Down SantaCon's Bid to Kick Off in Bushwick Park

By Serena Dai | November 19, 2014 1:34pm
 Santas cheer on Pier 84 during Santacon 2012.
Santas cheer on Pier 84 during Santacon 2012.
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flickr/Dave Bledsoe

BUSHWICK — Santa will have to find a different place to park his sled.

The annual costumed pub crawl SantaCon asked to use Maria Hernandez Park as a gathering point and for "pre-setup" during the Dec. 13 event — but was told to take a hike by city officials even before submitting its application, according to local police and the Parks Department.

"We communicated to the organizers that Parks and the NYPD do not feel that Maria Hernandez Park can safely accomodate their estimated attendance — more than 1,000 people," a department spokeswoman said.

Nearly 30,000 people attended the four-hour pub crawl at last year's SantaCon in East Village and Lower East Side. The event traditionally starts in a park, where participants meet before taking to local bars, organizers said.

Maria Hernandez Park, located between Knickerbocker and Irving avenues south of Starr Street, is the largest park in Bushwick. Organizers would not say where they would kick off the crawl instead. 

The controversial crawl, in which participants dress up in holiday gear, has previously been blasted by police and locals as a "scourge" that brings vomiting, public urination, vandalism and littering by bar-goers.

After news broke Monday that the crawl would be hitting Bushwick this year, locals and elected officials ripped the event.

Councilman Rafael Espinal called on bar owners to boycott SantaCon, and businesses like Pearl's Social and Billy Club, Roberta's and King's County agreed to ban people from "the puke-filled pub crawl."

However, SantaCon's organizers told Bushwick bar owners that the event is working closely with authorities to prevent "drunken troublemakers."

"Santa agrees that there is no excuse for inappropriate behavior," a statement said. "Public drunkenness, urination or rude behavior is not only prohibited by the stated rules of the event, but actively discouraged by the crowds of Santas themselves, who are for the most part, responsible, creative community-minded New Yorkers."

But the 83rd precinct police and Community Board 4 said they have not heard from organizers.

An associate with the board, who did not want to be named, said CB4 is against the crawl.

"Would you want it in your community?" she asked. "From what they say is going to happen, I don’t think anybody would want that."

Executive Officer Capt. Ronald Zedalis acknowledged that police couldn't stop revelers from coming to the neighborhood despite the Parks Department denying SantaCon official use of Maria Hernandez.

Police plan to closely watch the crawl's plans ahead of the event and step up presence during it, he said.

"This is something we'll definitely be on top of," Zedalis said. "We're going to be actively looking into where they're going to have it, as well as what establishments they're going to be patronizing."