CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — For fifty years now, Labor Day has meant the Caribbean Day Parade and Festival in Brooklyn. Over the years, the carnival-like atmosphere, the neighborliness and the high-volume music have remained the same.
This year though, the fun was tarnished by acts of violence, despite efforts by City Hall and the NYPD to try to reduce crime at the city's largest outdoor event.
By the time the parade ended Monday evening, there had been four shootings — one fatal —near the route of the parade since Sunday evening, according to police sources.
They said that there had also been four stabbings or slashings along the route, as well as an alleged drunk driver who'd steered his car into a crowd nearby overnight.
It all happened despite the fact that the hours of the J'Ouvert Festival, an outdoor daybreak party which precedes the parade, were shortened this year.
Security checkpoints with metal detectors were also added in an effort to reduce violence that had left two young people, Tyreke Borel and Tiarah Poyau, dead during festivities last year, and which left Carey Gabay, an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, dead in 2015.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was not making any public comment about the violence. Other public officials did react.
"Two weeks ago, we had 20 shootings in a weekend," said City Councilmember Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat. He said that to associate violence that had happened near the parade and festival locations was unfair, since there are acts of "violence in the area year-round."
Some parade goers, like Tim Brown of Brooklyn, said that security changes were evident.
"Twenty years ago, it was kind of wild," Brown said. "Now there are more police. It's a good thing."
However, the best thing, most people on the parade route told PIX11 News, was the parade itself.
"People, so much love, so much unity," were what Marlene Rowland listed as the things she most looks forward to at the event. "You can't get better than this."
"The culture, the people, the community," echoed Yvonne Gaines, another parade goer, as she listed what was most important to her at the parade. "Only in New York would you see something so unbelievable."