What to Know
- Steel drum bands and paint-splashed, costumed revelers are taking to the streets of Brooklyn Monday for a Caribbean carnival
- The festivities include a daytime parade and street party called J'Ouvert, are being accompanied by legions of police officers, checkpoints
- The security measures are all intended to prevent violence that has marred the party in the past
Steel bands and revelers sporting elaborate feathered costumes, Caribbean flags and some rain ponchos marched and danced Monday in a West Indian American Day Parade dampened by weather and awash in cultural pride.
The annual parade in Brooklyn is one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Caribbean heritage, a New York take on Carnival celebrations. Brooklyn is home to hundreds of thousands of Caribbean immigrants and their descendants, and the march and a pre-parade street party called J’Ouvert are a can’t-miss tradition for many.
Bikini-clad dancers bedecked like birds and butterflies with giant wings, bands with steel drums, marchers waving and wearing flags, and a roster of the region’s politicians made their way along a thoroughfare under on-and-off rain.
With Hurricane Dorian unleashing massive flooding the Bahamas, some marchers’ minds were on conditions there. Mayor Bill de Blasio urged people at a pre-parade breakfast to think of everyone in the storm’s path, adding that “as always, New York City is going to answer the call” for help.
The parade unfolded under security that has been tightened in recent years after past outbreaks of violence. Carey Gabay, an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, died after being hit by stray gunfire while heading to the J’Ouvert festivities in 2015.
After marching Monday, the Democratic governor told local cable news station NY1 that he continues to love the parade for its celebration of cultural diversity, but “it’s bittersweet for me because it brings back memories of Carey Gabay.”
Policing of the parade has also been an issue at times.
Then-City Councilman Jumaane Williams was detained and handcuffed while trying to get to a parade event in 2011 as an aide to de Blasio, who was then the city’s elected public advocate.
Williams, a Democrat, is now the public advocate and was a grand marshal of Monday’s parade.
The NYPD says J'Ouvert has become much safer in the past two years thanks to added security. Thousands of officers will be stationed along the parade route in Crown Heights.
There were more than 300 light towers, as well as cameras and 13 checkpoints to ensure the safety of festival goers, police said.
J'Ouvert, which comes from the French words "jour" and "ouvert" and means daybreak, features revelers who cover their bodies in paint or oil, wear helmets with giant horns, and toss talcum powder into the air. The highlight is a parade of steel pan bands.
Nearly a million people were expected at the parade and associated events.