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SantaCon to Kick Off in McCarren Park and Reveal Route Two Days Early

By Nicole Levy | December 8, 2015 12:36pm
 People dressed as Santa walk down the street during SantaCon 2012.
People dressed as Santa walk down the street during SantaCon 2012.
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flickr/Dave Bledsoe

WILLIAMSBURG — Hundreds of Santas, elves, Grinches and Krampuses will assemble at two McCarren Park football fields Saturday morning to kick off this year's SantaCon.

Whereas organizers of what critics call a holiday-themed "bar crawl" have previously taken an enigmatic approach to their planning, traditionally revealing the route that tipsy Santas will take the night before, the 2015 itinerary was developed in coordination with the police and parks departments over the last month, according to the group's legal representation.

A major portion of this year's SantaCon route will be publicly released Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, said civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, hired last year as the event's liaison with government agencies and the press.

SantaCon has secured a permit from the parks department and a green light from the NYPD, Siegel said.

The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation expects 800 to 1,000 SantaCon participants to gather at 10 a.m. for a photo opportunity before they begin the day's recreational drinking, an agency spokesperson told DNAinfo New York.

"Parks has worked with NYPD and the community to ensure the gathering in McCarren to launch this year's SantaCon is safe, orderly and respectful of the local community," the spokesperson said in a statement. "SantaCon has complied with all of Parks and NYPD requests and we expect a well-organized event."

SantaCon organizers "are working with the appropriate city agencies...because in the past, they just showed up, and even the police didn’t know until it started to happen," Siegel told DNAinfo. "I urged them that that’s not a good way to do it, and to their credit, they’ve adjusted.”

The annual public gathering of bar-hoppers decked in Santa costumes, numbering in the tens of thousands, has been blasted in past years by locals, business owners and elected officials who say the event is characterized by incidents of vomiting, public urination, vandalism and littering. Twelve elected officials, in a letter sent Monday, asked SantaCon organizers to “make a concerted effort to self-police” the event's overly intoxicated and mischievous participants and to keep passageways on sidewalks open.

SantaCon organizers and Siegel said they have already addressed officials' concerns, by agreeing to tweet public service messages throughout the event and to vigorously "instruct participants to not take up the entire public sidewalk and to obey traffic rules and regulations," they wrote in a letter sent to state Sen. Brad Hoylman and 11 other local politicians Monday night.

In general, organizers defend their right to celebrate the holidays and parody its commercialization as they see fit, citing the First Amendment and highlighting their contributions to local businesses and charity.

This Saturday, the event's participants will head to the East Village from Williamsburg, according to a police source