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SantaCon aims for lively, safe bar crawl despite checkered past

SantaCon NYC is taking place on Dec. 10,

SantaCon NYC is taking place on Dec. 10, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Don Emmert

The Santas are coming!

Whether you’re ready or not, whether you’ve been naughty or nice, the annual SantaCon bar crawl takes place this Saturday. Thousands of partyers are expected to hit several neighborhoods, including the Flatiron District, midtown and the East Village.

And despite a checkered past including fights, arrests and general rudeness, organizer Stefan Pildes, who goes by the nickname Stefan Spins, said he expects for a peaceful and respectful day this year.

“This event is really about holiday cheer. If anything, it’s a chance to celebrate the holidays after a very tough year,” he said.

Despite a calmer 2015 in which there were only five arrests, officials such as City Councilman Rafael Espinal sounded alarms.

“Police department resources are stretched thin and we have to be sure they are doing their job presenting our communities from real dangers,” he said, referring to the heightened tensions since the presidential election.

The councilman successfully fought to keep the event out of Bushwick in 2014.

Spins has attended the crawl since 2005 and maintains that the group will be respectful of the participating communities. Santas should follow the rules of conduct on the SantaCon website, he said, and he pointed to last year’s low incident total as proof that the message has resonated.

Espinal praised the efforts to main order over the last few years.

“They are doing a great job of letting participants know about the negative aspects of the event and its impact on the community,” he said.

Although a full map of the crawl won’t be released until Friday night, the organizers helped New Yorkers get a head start Wednesday when they shared online some of the participating Manhattan bars, such as Ainsworth Park on East 18th Street, Webster Hall, and Madison Tavern on West 30th Street.

Timothy Malefyt, cultural anthropologist and associate professor at Fordham University, said the crawl could actually be a good way to ease some of the divisiveness that’s permeated the city over the past month.

“People need something like this after all of the uncertainty that is going on,” he said.

Still, officials aren’t taking any chances.

The NYPD said there would be “an adequate number of officers assigned” to the event. As is now tradition, the MTA announced it will ban alcohol on LIRR and Metro-North trains Saturday through early Sunday and take extra security measures to make sure straphangers are safe during the day.

“The police will confiscate alcoholic beverages and issue summonses carrying fines or imprisonment. Violators may also be subject to removal from the train or station by police,” the agency said in a statement.

Bob Gormley, the district manager for Manhattan Community Board 2, which covers Greenwich Village, said residents have grown begrudgingly accustomed to the event.

“This will happen one time, it will go away until next year. We’ll live through it,” he said.

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