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Locals slam impromptu dance party on Williamsburg open street • Brooklyn Paper

Locals slam impromptu dance party on Williamsburg open street

Revelers partied outside Cheesboat on Berry Street on May 14.
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They do not have the right to party!

A group of unmasked frolickers gathered for an impromptu shindig outside a Williamsburg restaurant which was blasting dance music on the newly-closed Berry Street on May 14, seemingly flouting state social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to one local.

“People were just puzzled that this was happening. This sort of callous disregard for the reality of the situation is what really pissed me off,” said Jennifer Weinberg, who caught the gathering on video. “The point of all of this is not to encourage people to be outside; it’s to give them more space when they have to be.”

The al-fresco jamboree started around 2:30 pm when Cheeseboat on N. Ninth Street began playing music outside. Soon after, people passing by stopped to enjoy the mirth in close proximity to one another, according to Weinberg.

After Weisberg lodged several complaints with 311, police came broke up the gathering at around 4:45 pm, but after the cops left, the restaurant and the revelers just resumed, according to the Williamsburger, who also sent an alert to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s social distancing complaint hotline, but said she did not get a response. 

While Weisberg said she understands that small businesses are trying to stay afloat amid the pandemic, she hopes they will do so without risking further spread of the virus in the community.

“I desperately want local businesses to survive, but not at the expense of their neighbors’ health and sanity,” she said, further speculating that enforcement would have been harsher in less affluent neighborhoods.

“A guy was riding by on his bicycle and said, ‘This would not be happening in our neighborhood, the police would be all over us. This is just because you’re white and in a wealthy neighborhood,’” Weisberg said.

The city closed off almost a mile of Berry Street from N. 12th Street to Broadway to through-traffic earlier that day — the longest single stretch in the borough as part of de Blasio’s “open streets” program — and one local politico worried that if locals are careless like this, it could cause Hizzoner to reconsider the effort — especially as the weather gets warmer. 

“We need responsible public open space to get through this, and will also need ways for people to access businesses on the blocks,” said Elizabeth Adams, Councilman Stephen Levin’s legislative director and candidate for his seat. “If we believe in community enforcement and not relying on unnecessary policing, we need to look out for each other and step up ourselves.”

Adams said that locals should enjoy the open streets but in a responsible way that doesn’t endanger their neighbors.

“This is not okay! We are still in a shutdown and people need to keep distance and wear masks,” she said.

Since announcing its addition to the program on May 14, de Blasio has tasked local police units to monitor Berry Street, which snakes through both the 94th and 90th precincts.

The mayor was initially hesitant to close streets without police monitoring them, and even ditched his original pilot of the open streets program after saying he couldn’t earmark that many cops to watch the roadways. But after a push by the City Council, de Blasio agreed to work with local groups like business improvement districts and even local bars and venues to close off some blocks at a time.

Other parts of the north Brooklyn thoroughfare seemed to be doing fine, with locals ambling at a safe distance from each other, as seen in a video NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan posted on Twitter.

“One day’s notice. Little specific publicity. And yet the pedestrianized Berry Street (a block from me in Williamsburg) is packed (yet distanced) with people,” wrote Kiernan on Twitter.

Cheeseboat could not be reached for comment.

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