Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams says he will be convening an emergency meeting of key stakeholders, including law enforcement and J’Ouvert organizers, in the wake of the pre-J’ouvert shooting of a legal aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In what police have described as a wild hail of gunfire flying between rival gang members, Carey Gabay, 43, was struck in the head by a bullet as he stood on Bedford Avenue near the J’ouvert route. Gabay is still in critical condition at Kings County Hospital.
“The J’Ouvert celebrations, which are separate from the larger parade, have raised legitimate concerns about safety for participants and passersby alike,” Adams said. “Even with efforts that have been taken to make these marches and parties safer, we cannot tolerate a single person getting injured or worse.”
He said his meeting will review the J’ouvert celebration that precedes the annual massive West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, to determine “the best course of action for next year.”
“The celebration of J’Ouvert is not inherently violent, so we must work to remove every violent element from this otherwise festive celebration of cultural pride,” Adams said.
“We must also remind ourselves of the larger crisis that gun violence continues to pose to our city, our state, and our nation,” he added. “Left unchecked, bullets will continue to carve highways of death in our communities, whether on Eastern Parkway during J’Ouvert or at another place and time.”
Adams, however, noted that Brooklyn is “extremely proud of its Caribbean culture, highlighted every Labor Day by the West Indian American Day Carnival on Eastern Parkway, New York City’s largest parade of the year.
He said the leadership of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), organizer or the parade, has worked “diligently” in recent years, alongside the New York Police Department (NYPD) and local elected officials, “to make sure the experience can be a safe and joyous one for everyone that attends.”
New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton told reporters on Tuesday that the parade and surrounding events are “our most violent public event in the city,” stating that “some of it has to do with the fact that it’s an overnight event.”
Since there is no political or community interest in ending the celebrations, Bratton said, “we will work to the best of our ability to deal with the elements in that community that engage in that violence.”
But Thomas Bailey, the Trinidadian-born president of WIADCA, and others said the celebrations are incorrectly being linked to the violence.
“We have not experienced any violence, other than what happens on a daily basis in New York City or all over the world,” he told reporters.“I don’t think the carnival celebration should be linked to the violence.”
Meantime, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), deputy leader and chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson (D-Bronx), Chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, and Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Council’s Women’s Issues Committee, issued a joint statement on Tuesday saying they were “deeply saddened” that J’ouvert and the carnival parade were “marred by tragic, senseless acts of violence.”
“Statistically speaking, last year’s West Indian American Carnival celebration was the safest in recent history, and early reports indicate that this year’s was even safer; but statistics are of little comfort to the friends and families of those whose loved ones were hurt in the weekend’s senseless violence,” they said.
A 24-year-old man was also fatally stabbed in the hours before the J’ouvert celebrations began early Monday. Gabay was hit by a stray bullet, police said.
“Despite this being one of the safest summers in New York City, we are tired of our communities experiencing gun violence, even though the solutions are right in front of us,” said Williams, Gibson and Cumbo.
“While respecting the second amendment, we must limit the supply of guns and address the structural deficits that exist in many communities, often driving the need for violence that can result in fatal actions,” they added, expressing gratitude to city and state elected leaders’ national call to enhance gun policies, “which should be backed by actions and resources.
“We are adamant that at the state level, we should continue development of the sensible ammunition background check system that was part of the state’s SAFE Act,” the legislators added.
“Federally, we must push legislation like Senator Gillibrand’s anti-gun trafficking bill to crack down on the daily flow of illegal guns on our nation’s streets,” they continued, stating that micro-stamping and background checks on gun dealers must be discussed and implemented at the state and federal levels.
At the city level, they urged called for “real resources behind the solutions.”
“Additionally, as we learned from this year’s parade and move forward in planning the 49th annual event, we must continue conversations between the Carnival’s board, elected officials, NYPD, community members, Mas Camps and Pan Yard organizers to further improve this event,” Williams, Gibson and Cumbo said.