Banned on the Fourth of July

Banned on the Fourth of July
Photo by Steve Solomonson

A Bay Ridge Arab-American group blasted the planners of a Fourth of July picnic this week after its offer to pitch in during the event was rebuffed by organizers who said they didn’t want to turn a patriotic celebration into an “ethnic event.”

The Arab American Association of New York said it offered to help out with entertainment at the picnic — which was sponsored by state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) — and hire an Arab band to play a show, but organizer Chip Cafiero turned them down.

“We didn’t go after any cultural groups,” Chip Cafiero told us when asked about his decision.

Cafiero noted that everyone was invited to attend, but they should hang their ethnicity at the door.

“Arab Americans are more than welcome to come down, but they come down as American Arabs,” he said. “If the Italian Americans wanted to come down, they can, but we’re not going to play Italian music.”

But the Arab group said it should have been involved in the festivities, saying it is just as American as any other organization.

“Having an Arab-American band play at an Independence Day event visually displays that Arab-Americans are patriotic and they are a partner in all aspects of the community,” said the group’s president, Linda Sarsour.

But Cafiero pointed out that the focus of Independence Day Picnic was to celebrate America’s undying love of hot dogs and the J. Geils Band — not to celebrate the individual ethnic groups that share that love.

“America is a melting pot,” he said. “But it’s all about all the different nationalities becoming Americans.”

The annual event, which drew over 2,000 people and raised money for local community groups like the 68th Precinct Community Council, was held at the ball field at Shore Road and 82nd Street.

Cafiero said he would consider letting the group help out next year — as long as it was with the group’s wallet.

“We’re more than happy to take their money,” he said.