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While the East River Pool Parties have gotten off to a successful start, save for a few weather-related disturbances, state Parks Department officials and promoters have been quietly engaging in a debate over how to best handle security concerns for the concert venue.
At issue is the presence of three distinct entrances on Kent Avenue and a Byzantine fencing system that has been installed to keep the three areas separated.
Security officials hired by the concert’s promoters, JellyNYC and the Open Space Alliance (OSA), which manages the event, check bags of concertgoers on the main entrance on North 8th and Kent and at a side VIP entrance on North 7th Street.
Once inside, plastic and metal fencing surrounds an area for 21 and over fans, the only place where alcohol consumption is permitted.
Residents looking to enjoy the park without having to get their bags searched can enter through a third way, on North 9th and Kent.A large area is cordoned off for these non-concertgoing residents, though State Parks officials count individuals at all three entrances in order to ensure the park is over capacity.
State Parks Regional Director Rachel Gordon believes all the safety measures are critical, though the agency has made adjustments as the concert season has unfolded.
“Last week, we separated lines for people with bags and no bags to make things move smoothly,” said Gordon.“The temporary fencing exists because we want to ensure that people who might just choose to come to the park and not be part of the concert would be able to do that.We want the park to be open for everyone.”
Concert attendees like Brooklyn resident Miguel Lopez, who works for a concert-planning nonprofit in downtown Manhattan, understands that a state park may mean stricter rules for the public, but is dissatisfied with the fencing.
“As a concert-goer, the new set-up makes the experience less enjoyable,” said Lopez.“As an event producer, it makes perfect sense. The corralled drinking area is large enough so as not to make the audience feel like cattle, and there are fine site-lines of the stage.Rules are rules.”
Nora Walker, an attendee who works in the music industry, said the booking for the Pool Party series has been “top notch” but believes that the new location seemed “disjointed” and “lacks the community vibe” of the McCarren Park Pool.
“A lot of this has to do with the move to a public park site, which places many more restrictions on all aspects of the pool: the stage has to be smaller so that it can be taken up and down every week, funding seems limited, and the alcohol restricted to only beer and wine,” said Walker.
Members of the Open Space Alliance and JellyNYC have been closely working with state Parks directors and local elected officials including Councilmember David Yassky (D-Williamsburg) and Assemblymember Joe Lentol (D-Williamsburg) for the past two years to secure the East River alternative and ensure the event runs smoothly.
According to Stephanie Thayer, executive director of OSA, New York State Parks divided the park between “Concert Use” and “Parks Use” to allow non-concertgoers a fast and unimpeded way of accessing the park during concert days.
“The metal barricade is a small accommodation for the state to continue to serve their parks patrons as they would otherwise.OSA is grateful for New York state’s partnership with us to allow the music to play on this summer,” said Thayer.
So far, the fences have not caused any safety issues regarding crowd control, as fans exited quickly and without issue when flashes of lightning closed an event on July 26.Nevertheless, the fencing remains an issue that may continue to be wrestled with as the event proceeds.
“I don’t know why they have the fencing.I imagine it was some sort of safety issue, but hopefully they won’t need them next year because these concerts have shown themselves to have a good track record,” said Lentol.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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