CROWN HEIGHTS — The city is aiming to make this year’s J’Ouvert celebration “safer than ever,” the mayor said Wednesday.
Less than a week before the annual pre-dawn Caribbean festival, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference with the NYPD in Crown Heights to assure the community the event will be safe and organized.
“This year I can say you’re going to see the most extensive security ever at the J’Ouvert celebration,” de Blasio told a crowd just inside Prospect Park on the J’Ouvert parade route on Flatbush Avenue, near Empire Boulevard.
The NYPD plans to double its presence at the event this year, bringing in “several thousand” officers, according to Chief Steven Powers of Brooklyn South.
More than 200 light towers will also be installed at the event and the official parade has been permitted — a first for the loosely organized event whose name means “day break” and which celebrates the beginning of carnival.
“We all appreciate spontaneity, but an event of this importance and size needed to be more structured,” de Blasio said.
The new security comes a year after the death of Cuomo administration attorney Carey Gabay, who was killed by a stray bullet during a gang shooting that took place outside a Crown Heights apartment complex during J’Ouvert.
Gabay was one of many victims of violence that marred the Caribbean holiday in recent years, something organizers and participants of the event want to change.
“J’Ouvert does not have violence. Our culture has no part of violence,” said Yvette Rennie, an organizer of the official J’Ouvert parade.
In the run-up to the event, local leaders and police have aggressively pushed that anti-violence message. Last week, the NYPD, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and several community groups hung signs in the neighborhood with a blunt warning: “Do not shoot anybody.”
As they went up, some residents took offense to the message, while others cheered the NYPD’s attempt to crack down on those who do harm at an otherwise peaceful event.
The mayor’s office declined to comment on the posters Wednesday. But at the J’Ouvert event, de Blasio made clear who the NYPD was targeting: “A few bad apples.”
“Thousands of people — good people, law-abiding people, people who love their community — participate in these events each year,” he said.
“We are not going to let a few bad apples destroy something that’s so important to hundreds of thousands of good New Yorkers.”