Papa, don’t preach! Williamsburgers want weekend preacher to turn it down

Street preacher Ray Bou has been spreading the word of God with the help of very loud amplifiers at the corner of Broadway and Havemeyer Street every weekend for the past 14 years. Neighbors say he is louder than the J and M trains that run overhead.
Community Newspaper Group / Danielle Furfaro

A group of Brooklynites are banding together to try to quiet down a street preacher whose bombastic, amplified sermons have annoyed them for years.

Ray Bou has come to the corner of Broadway and Havemeyer Street under the elevated J and M train in Williamsburg every weekend for the more than a decade to preach the word of the Bible loud enough for people to hear him above the subway’s roar, and residents say they’ve had enough.

“He is trying to be louder than the train,” said Martin Misiak, who lives on Broadway. “I literally cannot be in my apartment on the weekends and think clearly.”

But the sidewalk speaker, who uses a guitar and amplifier to get his message out, claims his words are reverberating only because of his love for his fellow man.

“I come here because I want to help people,” said Bou, who says he is a reformed heroin and crack addict who lives in Queens. “I cannot walk the streets and see people suffering. I can’t stand to see people go to waste.”

But neighbors within a block of where Bou sets up his “Jesus is Lord” sign say he’s the one causing the suffering by blasting his gospel and guitar playing from early in the morning until the evening every Saturday and Sunday.

Misiak said he tried talking to Bou, but the preacher responded by quoting the Bible. Misaik once handed the preacher a note that said “Stop being so selfish. Your right isn’t the only right,” but that had no effect.

Misiak then tried calling the police to report the noise violation, but claims cops usually show up several hours later, ask him to turn it down, and leave. A few minutes after the cops pull away, Bou has the volume back up to 11.

A few weeks ago, Misiak started a petition, and quickly gathered 65 signatures from neighbors who say Bou needs to turn it town a notch or seven. He said he would have kept collecting, but claims he was threatened by Bou’s followers.

“I was told to hide my face or I’d regret it on blood day,” said Misiak.

The noise ordinance in New York City is complex. There are rules governing bars and car stereos, but there is not a law that addresses amplifiers set up on street corners.

Bou said he will not be shushed.

“The people who don’t want me here are godless, atheist hipsters living in immorality,” said Bou. “They come from good homes and they’ve never been poor, so they don’t know what it’s like to need god.”

Other neighbors say they aren’t only concerned by the volume of his sermons, but the tone.

“He preaches a lot of negative, hateful things,” said Elani Myers, who lives across the street from where Bou preaches. “It crosses the line and makes me not want to walk by that corner.”

Meyers claimed that last Easter, Bou and a group of followers put on a particularly graphic reenactment of the Passion of Jesus, with Bou, who usually has a large wooden cross nearby, playing the Nazarene.

“They were beating him and pushing him down. They did it over and over,” said Myers. “It was very uncomfortable.”

Misiak said he will continue to work to find a way to get Bou to quiet down.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

More from Around New York