Police are pressuring a posse of Coney Island performers to silence its weekend Boardwalk parties an hour earlier than its permit allows, the group’s leader charged this week.
“We’re being singled out!” exclaimed Rican Vargas, leader of the Coney Island Dancers. “I smell a rat and I don’t like it.”
Known for their costumes and funky playlists, the Coney Island Dancers have been boogying down the Boardwalk on Friday and Saturday nights since 1996. The Parks Department ruled months ago that the dozens of dancers can blast their tunes until 9 pm, but this summer, the cops want them to stop the show at 8 pm, according to Vargas.
“I received nothing in writing, but [60th Precinct] Captain Peter DeBlasio verbally pressured me to end the parties early,” he said.
But cops say that Vargas’ story is off-beat.
A Community Affairs officer who declined to give his name said that this summer, all Boardwalk parties — not just the Coney Island Dancers — with amplified sound must end at 8 pm. The police, who get the final say on sound permits, decided to slash the Parks-issued schedules after stressful dealings with liquor-fueled crowds that stormed the Boardwalk during Memorial Day weekend, the officer said.
Dozens of event organizers were informed in writing about the change last month, he added.
DeBlasio could not be reached for comment and police did not return a request for information on any Memorial Day weekend citations.
Regardless of permits, most Boardwalk parties don’t pull the plug before sundown. For instance, Cha Cha’s bar near Stillwell Avenue holds a rooftop DJ dance party on Fridays until midnight during the summer, according to its website. And Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park near W. 12th Street frequently hosts karaoke nights until 9:30 pm. Cha Cha’s managers did not return calls for comment, but the marketing director for Deno’s said that the amusement area’s karaoke nights are completely legal.
“Our sound permits for karaoke have been in place for 12 years,” Hochman said. “And that’s because we manage our crowds well.”
But Vargas says that he manages his crowds well, too.
“I’ve had a great reputation on the Boardwalk for 16 years!” he said.
Indeed, a 60th Precinct Community Affairs officer said that there has “never been a problem” with the Coney Island Dancers.
But instead of trying to tango with the cops, the Dancers have brought their post-8 pm groove to a new spot: Joe Sitt’s BK Festival lots on Stillwell Avenue. By day, the fair is an upgraded version of the Coney landlord’s failed 2009 flea, but managers say that the Dancers have been turning their bazaar into a block party for the past three weeks.
“After 8 pm they bring their dancers and music from the Boardwalk,” said manager Tommy Brady. “It’s been working out great.”
A Boardwalk shooting in mid-June that left a teenager dead gave cops them yet another reason to crack down on crowds. Police even went as far as to say they’d “look into” instituting random bag-checks.