Up the river! New venue for Williamsburg waterfront concert series

Rock out at Rock Beach this summer
Jason Bergman

Williamsburg’s waterfront concerts a movin’ on up — up three blocks north on Kent Avenue from East River State Park to appease residents who have complained about unruly crowds, garbage and drug use from the controversial events.

The concerts will now be held on a vacant city-owned lot between N. 11th and N. 12th streets, three blocks north of the park.

“We think this is a better site, has a better impact on residents, and it uses an underutilized property,” Adam Perlmutter, a board member of the Open Space Alliance, which hosted the concerts, told Community Board 1 on Wednesday.

The new location is currently an asphalt parking lot on the east side of the neighborhood’s western avenue, a plot that was once leased by the Sanitation Department before the city acquired it two years ago as part of its plan to build the 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park.

But the park, which could cost several hundred million to develop, has stalled after the city refused to buy its surrounding properties.

But some residents remain skeptical that the new location would cure problems from the concert series.

“They’re still going to have to funnel upwards of 6,000 people into the neighborhood — that doesn’t seem manageable,” said Williamsburg resident Susan Fensten. “And we’re still going to be able to hear it. The era of quiet nights on the waterfront is over.”

Neighbors have long denounced the concerts, blaming the Open Space Alliance for not reducing noise, removing trash and regulating crowds after the final encore.

Fensten even encountered rowdy fans abusing nitrous oxide in front of her house after a Widespread Panic show two weeks ago, though police did not make any arrests.

Open Space Alliance’s Stephanie Thayer defended the concert series, saying she did everything she could to appease neighbors this year.

“We reduced sound checks later, reduced capacity and rerouted exits,” said Thayer. “We want to make this the best possible experience for everybody.”

The concerts began as the famous McCarren Park “pool parties” in 2006, and were a huge success, attracting bands such as Wilco, Sonic Youth, and TV on the Radio.

The shows moved to the East River in 2009 so the city could restore the pool for swimming purposes, but the entertainment remained first-rate. Grizzly Bear, Conor Oberst, and most recently, Fleet Foxes performed this year to sold-out crowds of more than 5,000 fans.

The public can comment on the new concert venue at a meeting of the Open Space Alliance at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center [211 Ainslie St. at Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 963-0830], Oct. 20, 6:30 pm.

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