The day the music (sort of) died in Williamsburg

Summer simmer: Williamsburg leaders want crackdown on concerts
Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell

Concerts on the Williamsburg waterfront this year could be cut by one-third if neighboring residents get their way.

Community Board 1’s Parks Committee voted on Tuesday night to limit the number of large-scale concerts in East River State Park this summer from 15 to 10 and reduce capacity from 6,500 to 5,000 people — but the series’ chief promoter said the show will go on.

“I have contracts for 15 concerts this year,” Open Space Alliance director Stephanie Thayer told board members. “I can’t comply with this.”

Williamsburg residents have butted heads with parks advocates this year over the effects of the annual summer concert series, claiming that the event is too loud for the neighborhood and thousands of revelers trash the streets after each show.

For the past two years, the park has hosted paid and free shows with major draws such as Modest Mouse, Weezer, and Nas, but the promoter of its free shows pulled out and now the Open Space Alliance is booking all events. So far, Sonic Youth and Death Cab for Cutie have been booked for the Kent Avenue park.

That’s little solace to residents such as Bryan Somerville, who say people leave garbage and relieve themselves outside his N. Eighth Street home.

“I have to act like a security guard on my stoop so that people won’t urinate outside my house,” said Somerville.

And lifelong Williamsburg resident John Ricco wants the concert series shut down permanently.

“Whose idea was it to turn a residential neighborhood into a concert venue?” said Ricco. “We had no say about it. We are real Brooklyn and we’re sick and tired of being abused by people here.”

Thayer told us that she’s already working with the NYPD to address safety issues, but it’s simply not economically feasibility to do those number of shows at that capacity.

And supporters say the park helps independent businesses in Williamsburg reach a broad audience and that the money raised from ticketed shows goes back into maintaining parks throughout North Brooklyn.

Last year, the concert series netted about $400,000, half of which went towards East River State Park — which helped keep the park open during the winter months.

The resolution will be introduced next Tuesday to the full board, which will make a final — and merely advisory — recommendation to the city and the state about the future of the music series.

But Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy, a board member of the Open Space Alliance, said that the organization would reconsider the park as a viable music venue next year if residents continue to raise objections.

“We don’t want to have something that the community doesn’t want, but I don’t know if these residents speak for the entire community,” said Hindy.

Community Board 1 full board at Swinging ’60s Senior Center [211 Ainslie St. at Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 389-0009], May 12, 6:30 pm.