Concertgoers turned the northside of Williamsburg into an open-air “drug orgy” after Saturday night’s performance by Widespread Panic, wantonly consuming nitrous oxide from balloons in the streets around East River State Park.
One neighbor filmed dozens of roisterers loitering outside her N. Seventh Street stoop after the show, and threatened to call the cops amid what she called a “post-concert drug orgy mob nightmare” filled with a “hissing sound” that likely came from gas cannisters.
“You can’t hang out here, I’m calling the cops,” the woman, Susan Fensten, is heard on a tape recording of the incident. “You have to go.”
But drug users ignored her and kept inhaling “whip-its,” the street name for the gas, from large balloons.
“I had to run in my socks down to the lone cop who was directing traffic to please send help because a huge mob had grown around the balloon sellers,” the amateur videographer told the blog, New York Shitty. “It was total mayhem. It was a horror show and I was afraid for my safety while filming.”
Police found three empty nitrous oxide canisters near Kent Avenue and turned them over the Fire Department as “hazardous.”
Officers made no arrests, but said that they are inspecting the resident’s video to determine the identity of the seller.
Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson of the 94th Precinct said that this is the first instance of nitrous oxide abuse that his officers have discovered at the summer concert series, but residents have complained of similar incidents outside a show at nearby Brooklyn Bowl six months ago.
Residents say that drug use outside concerts at the state park is worrisome.
“This isn’t hot air balloons tied to ribbons,” said People’s Firehouse’s Kurt Hill. “The film shows them using laughing gas.”
Ironically, the band specifically warns audiences about the dangers of nitrous oxide on its website.
“After all the quality of life issues these concerts cause and assurances its organizers gave to be more dilligent, one would think this would be a red flag — but it wasn’t,” the blog, New York Shitty posted.
The concert’s organizer, Stephanie Thayer of the Open Space Alliance, said she was “appalled” by the behavior.
“This is not what we want to see in this community, certainly not near our concerts or parks,” said Thayer. “We will continue to work with the NYPD to prevent this ugly aberration from happening near our neighborhood parks again.”
State law prohibits the sale and use of nitrous oxide for “intoxication, inebriation, excitement, stupefaction or the dulling of the brain or nervous system.”
The gas is used in medical and dentist offices, aerosol cans sold at supermarkets, and for carbonating seltzer; cannisters must be labeled as suitable only for those purposes.
Abusing the drug, which is sometimes called “laughing gas,” can lead to disorientiation, visual and auditorary hallucinations, asphyxiation. and even death.