Bushwick: Ho, Ho, No!

Board 4 Relieved SantaCon’s Not Coming

Bushwick lawmakers and Community Board 4 celebrated teamwork at the Hope Gardens Senior Center last Wednesday, Nov. 19, after SantaCon organizers announced the bar crawl and charity event will not be held in the neighborhood.

State Sen. Martin Malave Dilan (left) and City Council Member Rafael Espinal (right) spoke on SantaCon not coming to Bushwick at the Community Board 4 meeting last Wednesday, Nov. 18 at the Hope Gardens Senior Center.

State Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan and City Council Member Rafael Espinal began the meeting by telling attendees the spirited event will not be coming to Bushwick.

SantaCon is an alcohol-fueled bar crawl begun in California, where revelers dress up in costumes–many as Santa Claus–and visit multiple bars while getting their fill of holiday cheer.

The lawmakers and Board 4 members-including District Manager Nadine Whitted and Chairperson Julie Dent-all expressed this relief, as did the crowd, which applauded the announcement.

Several neighborhood bar owners against the event coming attended as well, and were “thrilled” SantaCon organizers have decided to find a different location for the infamous event.

In past years thousands of spirited, and spirit-filled Santa’s have shown up at the event, far too many for Bushwick to handle, Espinal stated.

“This is a small, diverse community, I couldn’t see it as being possible that you would want 30,000 people show up on one day and just wreak havoc across our streets,” Espinal said.

SantaCon has been held in Manhattan several times, Espinal and Dilan noted.

The council member advised attendees that he had spoken with Dilan, Whitted and Dent–and they mutually agreed that “something should be done,” Espinal said.

“So I put out a statement yesterday urging bar owners and patrons not to participate in this event,” he stated.

Espinal noted much bad behavior by costumed revelers in communities where it has been held, and said local businesses have been upset by the refuse left behind and mayhem that has been witnessed.

In past years, “people were urinating, were puking in the streets, bars were upset and angry over the messes that were left behind,” Espinal stated.

“In years past, almost 30,000 people would show up at these events,” he added.

Many at the meeting Wednesday evening agreed Bushwick is just not the appropriate place for the event.

“It’s been happening in New York, over the years, in Manhattan,” Espinal said. “Thousands of people would show up, dressed as Santa, run through the streets and it became kind of a big crap show.”

Espinal noted the effort to dissuade organizers from bringing SantaCon to Bushwick was covered in the press, and said the impression was opposition was “futile,” he said; because other areas have fought them coming, but the boozy event came anyway.

“But thank God, I received a call about an hour ago from the organizers of SantaCon, and they graciously bowed out and said they are not coming to Bushwick,” Espinal said to applause.

“We’re a low-key workingclass [neighborhood], and what makes us so cool–and why we’re so cool in the present–is who we are now,” he stated. “Not what we are going to become 10 years from now, not what SantaCon is going to make us. We don’t need the added revenue.

“I think Bushwick is doing well without it,” Espinal added.

“We like Santa Claus, Not SantaCon,” Whitted said. “We still have a lot of young children here.”

Whitted spoke about the teamwork that was employed: “When we come together under one accord, we can get amazing thigs done.”

“And I do believe, based on some of the emails that I’ve received, some of the conversations that I have had, I don’t know of one person that spoke to me that was in agreement with this SantaCon thing coming,” she added.

“So I’m so proud of our council person, and the community and the barkeepers who stood up and said ‘this is now what we want,'” Whitted continued. “Working together we can get lot of things accomplished.”

Espinal had previously reached out to area pubs, asking them to not support SantaCon coming.

He issued a statement last week: “What makes Bushwick so great is that it’s a low-key, diverse community–one that is not accustomed to the size and scope of and event like SantaCon. The team at SantaCon NYC agreed that our neighborhood is not the best for the 2014 event and confirmed that SantaCon would find a new location. I want to publicly thank SantaCon organizers for the quick response and respect for the community concerns, and I wish them the best of luck on a safe and successful event.”

Though the event won’t be coming to Bushwick, some spirited revelers may still decide to visit local bars after they may have already consumed too much. In that case, Deputy Inspector Max Tolentino, commanding officer of the 83rd Precinct said they will have a plan in place to keep order.

“Rumors are that they might be coming to the bars afterward,” he stated.

Community Board 4 generally meets on the third Wednesday of the month at the Hope Gardens Senior Center in Bushwick, 195 Linden St. Meetings begin at 6 p.m.