CROWN HEIGHTS — After years of violence at the pre-dawn Caribbean festival of J’Ouvert, organizers and officials said the celebration will take place during daylight hours this year.
The Labor Day event, which is a precursor to Carnival and the West Indian Day Parade on Eastern Parkway, has been marred by fatal shootings for three years in a row, including the death of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's aide Carey Gabay in 2015.
In response, the NYPD and those responsible for the official J’Ouvert parade are moving the festivities to 6 a.m., rather than its previous 4 a.m. start time, according to Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
“We’ve been working on this since the day after J’Ouvert last year, working with the community, working with [Brooklyn Borough President] Eric Adams, Laurie Cumbo from the City Council, with the community and the people who run the J’Ouvert parade. This is the best decision going forward to try to keep people as safe as possible,” he said on Friday at an unrelated NYPD event.
Yvette Rennie, president of the parade organization J’Ouvert City International, said in the New York Daily News that her group felt it was important to bring J’Ouvert — which translates to “daybreak” — into the light.
“We are extremely concerned that darkness is when everything [bad] happens,” she told the newspaper.
Sources said the decision was made about a week and a half ago, after several meetings between the NYPD and J’Ouvert City International.
At those meetings, Flatbush's Councilman Jumaane Williams said everyone involved was open to the idea of making the event — which extends far beyond the parade itself and traditionally involves thousands of people celebrating in the street and in backyard parties — safer and better for all participants. But there was resistance to any suggestions that J'Ouvert should be canceled outright, he told DNAinfo New York on Friday.
"The pushback was on the .... [idea] of, somehow, you can end J’Ouvert morning. It was coming from people who, one, don’t participate and, two, are not particularly involved in [fighting] gun violence throughout the rest of the year," he said.
He added that conversations about the event are ongoing and the NYPD is considering other safety options for Labor Day, including increasing security measures that would restrict access to the J'Ouvert parade route.
Crown Heights residents have expressed concerns and fears about the event for years, particularly following last year’s parade, when two young people were fatally shot.
The mother of one of the victims, 22-year-old Tiarah Poyau, told a public safety forum on J’Ouvert held in June that she feared “this may never be a safe event.”
Last year, the NYPD doubled its presence at the celebration and installed dozens of light towers along the parade route before the event.
Sources said the parade route — from Grand Army Plaza, down Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue — is not set to change at this time.