The annual West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn is one of the highlights of the city calendar, an exuberant celebration of Caribbean culture boasting live music, floats and flags, food and beverages.
The morning of the parade, a separate pre-dawn event known as J’Ouvert, or “daybreaker,” is a more loosely organized but equally celebratory collection of street parties and procession. But at this year’s J’Ouvert on Monday, tragedy marred the celebration when attendees Tyreke Borel, 17, and Tiarah Poyau, 22, were shot and killed.
It isn’t the first time J’Ouvert has been the scene of a homicide. Last year, Carey Gabay, an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was killed by a wayward bullet. In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD doubled the number of cops at this year’s event, installed light towers, and conducted pre-event gang raids and outreach through violence interrupters. Though 250,000 attendees gathered happily, four people were needlessly shot, two fatally.
De Blasio said yesterday that J’Ouvert 2017 will not be canceled. We didn’t expect it to be during an election year. He is right to call for a review and meetings with police and the community. Directing police to patrol the streets at 3 a.m. before next year’s J’Ouvert and lock up those trying to join the party too early would do little to address the problem of prevalent guns that exists 365 days a year, not just one. Cancellation wouldn’t come to grips with the false idea that waving a gun on a crowded NYC street can be done with impunity.
J’Ouvert, like other celebrations and parades, is a brief departure from strict quality-of-life policing, leaving it open to claims that tolerance led to violence. According to police, Reginald Moise, the suspect under arrest for shooting Poyau, was drunk and high at the time and told a friend, “I didn’t know the gun was loaded.” To keep J’Ouvert as an exception, the NYPD and local community must redouble efforts to address the underlying causes of this violence. It shouldn’t be that the city can’t have both a party and safety.
The work to ensure both should start now, not in 12 months.