CROWN HEIGHTS — If you celebrate Caribbean carnival in Brooklyn, get ready for some significant changes at Labor Day events this year.
Following years of fatal shootings at the pre-dawn festival of J’Ouvert, the police department and local leaders announced there will be a major increase in security at the J’Ouvert parade, including a secure “frozen zone” around the Sept. 4 parade route — and a time change, moving the event from darkness to daylight.
In past years, carnival kicked off before the sun came up with J’Ouvert, a festival of revelry born in slave communities in the Caribbean, where crowds throng the streets of Flatbush, East Flatbush and Crown Heights in the hours between midnight and sunrise on Labor Day.
The celebration, which translates to “day break,” would continue at 4 a.m. with the J’Ouvert parade on Empire Boulevard with steel-pan bands, floats, costumes and dancing. The revelry typically continues throughout the morning and rest of the day when carnival’s main event — the larger and more famous West Indian Day Parade — takes place on Eastern Parkway.
But this year, the J’Ouvert parade will take place at 6 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. Additionally, the entire parade route will be closed off at 11 p.m. the night before and secured with a barricaded “frozen zone” similarly to how Times Square functions on New Year’s Eve, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Attendees will be able to enter the parade route only at a dozen NYPD checkpoints where people will be searched for weapons, large bags and alcohol, the police department has said. In addition to those changes, more police officers and light towers will be added to the route.
To help you plan for the Labor Day celebrations, here’s what we know about J’Ouvert right now. This guide and map will be updated as we have more information:
The path for the J’Ouvert parade will begin at Grand Army Plaza, travel south on Flatbush Avenue, turn left on Empire Boulevard and head east to Nostrand Avenue. From there, the parade will travel south on Nostrand to Midwood Street, according to the police department and parade organizers from J’Ouvert City International.
The J’Ouvert parade will begin at 6 a.m. on Labor Day (Sept. 4) this year, according to city officials. However, the celebration of J’Ouvert begins for many revelers when the clock strikes midnight on Labor Day; backyard parties, streetside barbecues and crowds of people celebrating will appear before dawn all over Flatbush and Crown Heights.
J’Ouvert City International are the official organizers of the J’Ouvert parade, not to be confused with the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, the organizers of the much larger (and completely separate) daytime West Indian Day Parade on Eastern Parkway. For more information about the J’Ouvert parade, visit jouvertcityint.org.
What to Know Before You Go
► Do not bring weapons.
Police officials will have metal detectors at all checkpoints for the J’Ouvert parade and will search attendees for guns or “anything that will endanger other people,” the mayor said at a press conference on security measures for the event on Monday.
“No effort to incite violence will be tolerated. Illegal activity will not be tolerated. NYPD will be out in force with a zero-tolerance attitude,” he said.
► Do not bring alcohol
Drinking in public is always illegal in New York, but for the first time, the NYPD is explicitly banning alcohol from the J’Ouvert parade and will be searching attendees for it. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said his officers at the event will be enforcing “quality of life” infractions, including illegal drinking and marijuana use.
► Do not bring large bags
As part of the security measures, large bags and backpacks are banned from the closed-off parade route. Take only what you need and leave the rest at home.
► Gates open at 2 a.m.
The police department will do a security sweep of the J’Ouvert parade route from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. on the night before Labor Day, then open up the checkpoints on Empire Boulevard and elsewhere to revelers who want to get a spot on the route.
For more information on the history and cultural significance of J’Ouvert, check out this mini-documentary by filmmaker Philip J. Bell: