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‘Not this year’: Mayor skipping J’Ouvert, but says he plans to go within his lifetime

Parading: Mayor DeBlasio is a frequent attendee of the annual West Indian Day Parade, but has yet to attend the J’Ouvert festivities that precede it — and won’t be going this year either, he said.
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Revelers who come out for this year’s J’Ouvert parade can expect to celebrate among thousands of cops and hundreds of floodlights — but not Mayor DeBlasio, who said he won’t be attending the early morning festivities preceding the West Indian Day Parade on Sept. 3.

“Not this year,” Hizzoner said during the media sit-down. “But I plan to go at some point in my life.”

DeBlasio — who said he has never attended J’Ouvert, but has gone to mas camps staged ahead of the annual event — applauded the efforts officials took last year to prevent fatal violence that has plagued past celebrations, attributing the relatively peaceful festivities to its new 6 am start time, along with security checkpoints set up along the route and a beefed-up police presence that included more than 300 floodlights and some 3,700 officers, roughly 10 percent more than the 3,400 dispatched in 2016, when separate shooters killed two attendees.

“I think the bottom line last year is that it broadly worked. It was the change of the time, I think, and putting the checkpoints in place, and obviously the tremendous police presence,” he said.

Earlier this month, local leaders including Borough President Adams said the city will bring the heightened safety measures back to this year’s parade — which runs along Flatbush Avenue and onto Empire Boulevard before curving onto Nostrand Avenue, where it ends at Midwood Street — and DeBlasio said the Police Department will announce a security plan, which may include even more precautions, “very soon.”

“As to anything new, I’m going to leave that to the NYPD,” he said. “I want to make sure all that has been perfected before we talk about it.”

DeBlasio isn’t the only mayor not to show face at the break-of-dawn Labor Day event — none of his predecessors have attended since it began in 1984, according to an organizer, who said he would be more than welcome this year should he change his mind.

“I did extend an invitation to him to be our cultural ambassador, but I have not heard back yet,” said Yvette Rennie, who runs J’Ouvert City International.

And although DeBlasio has yet to attend the festivities since he arrived in Brooklyn in 1992, he’s been a regular presence at the West Indian Day Parade that follows J’Ouvert throughout the years.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Updated 1:15 pm, September 5, 2018
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