The official blowback in response to the Halloween-Superfund-rave-that-almost-was has begun. As promised, Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol wrote a letter to the State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on behalf of his district strongly suggesting he “investigate the pop-up party industry in New York City.” Lentol asks that Schneiderman take a close look at CityFox, the party promoters responsible for the would-be rave, which the Assembly Member refers to as “a corporation extremely difficult to track.” More details about the rave have emerged, including a social media response from CityFox.
We first heard about Assembly Member Lentol’s intention to write this letter on Monday night at the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) Meeting at Greenpoint’s Polish and Slavic Center. An assistant from the representative’s office attended the NAG meeting and conveyed the representative’s frustration with the fact that this rave, one that was supposed to go down at a known-hazardous waste site, somehow received permits from both the State Liquor Authority and the New York City Department of Buildings, despite inconsistencies and false information (intentional or otherwise) on the permit applications.
However, it should be noted that despite the presence of diagrams that clearly show 280 Franklin Street (the NuHart building) as at least one of the addresses intended for the party (one of four indicated throughout the applications), the DOB approve a temporary place of assembly permit. “Where is the oversight? What is the punishment when a promoter blatantly lies?” Lentol’s assistant asked the room.
A co-owner of the NuHart site, Yi Han, one of several developers hoping to turn the Superfund site into a residential and commercial property, was on hand at the NAG meeting too, and offered an apology to Greenpoint neighbors. Han claimed that she was duped by promoters into signing a contract without full understanding of their intentions to have a massive rave. “[When the party promoter] said there would be 5,000 people,” she recalled, “I panicked, this was not what we had been sold.”
In the letter to the Attorney General, Assembly Member Lentol points out that his district– the 50th, which encompasses Greenpoint and parts of Williamsburg– is particularly alluring to one-off raves, given the abundance of abandoned or otherwise under-utilized industrial buildings with massive floor plans. The incident at the NuHart building, he writes, “highlights the serious problems regarding these events,” including the possibility of the presence of hazardous waste. Since NuHart, a Superfund location, is still in the process of being cleaned up, Lentol argues: “Organizing a large-scale party of this nature at this location is akin to having a pool party in Newtown Creek.”
Other issues of concern include the city’s apparent willingness, or susceptibility to quickly approving applications for mega-parties. Clearly, the DOB and SLA were given either inaccurate information or didn’t have time to consider the details of the planned event which, if it went forward, would have meant “over 4,000 people were approved to be in an old industrial building, currently a Superfund site, without a sprinkler system installed,” something that Lentol writes, “defies all rational judgment.”
The Assembly Member points to a list of other more “immediate dangers,” including the party promoters’ plans to oversell the event. Additionally, he writes, “I was told by the FDNY that there were also flammable materials hidden behind flammable curtains.”
B+B reached out to the fire department regarding the official explanation for shutting down the rave: “Prior to the beginning of a planned event, on the night of October 31-November 1, FDNY Fire Prevention safety inspectors and local field units found several hazardous life safety conditions at 49 DuPont (the FDNY Location for 20 Clay). FDNY notified the local Police precinct as well as the Department of Buildings emergency response unit.”
In the letter, Lentol is careful to point out that his anger is not directed at the party-goers or even parties in general, rather it’s directed toward the people who put in jeopardy “the safety of those who attend these parties and the safety of the residents who reside next to where the parties take place.”
He ends the letter by insisting the Attorney General investigate the permitting process that allows these types of events to move forward and look specifically at how CityFox was given permission to hold an event like this, adding “my staff attempted to contact the Cityfox organizers and was unsuccessful in reaching anyone, which leads me to believe this organization operates behind the scenes with little accountability.”
On Tuesday afternoon, CityFox took to Facebook and offered an apology to ticket holders, promising “we will make it up to you” and acknowledging the shutdown was a disappointing and abrupt end to Halloween plans for thousands of people. It appears that refunds will be issued “in the next two weeks” if ticket holders follow up with Resident Advisor.
Besides an apology, the promoters offered a detailed explanation of their interpretation of events. “One of the more challenging steps in producing The Cityfox Experience is selecting the venue,” they write. “Upon being introduced to the venue planned for Saturday night, we did a walk through with the landlord, assessed it, and were instructed on which portions of the block sized building we could use. We were not made aware of anything that might prevent the event from going forward, and we began to envision how it’d come together. The first thing we requested of our architect, as we do with all potential spaces, was to check the building for any violations in the DOB records that might cause the denial of a TPA, [temporary place of assembly].”
According to the Facebook post, CityFox says the fire department arrived to inspect the building on Saturday night prior to the event “as is customary,” only to “raise several permit related issues which we either addressed, offered to address, or pointed out were invalid per building code or the TPA that was issued.” As we know, the FDNY cancelled the event– though CityFox alleges they did so without any “official written reason as they are mandated to do.”
CityFox also points to “media pieces conveying speculation and erroneous information, including about fabrics used in our production,” what seems to be a reference to information that came from the fire department about the presence of flammable materials and flammable curtains in the event space. “We were compliant with all permitting or ready and able to address any cocnerns [sic] used certified flame resistant fabrics, and we were issued no summons for violations,” the party promoters argued.
And in a lawyerly sort of explanation regarding whether or not they knew the NuHart building was a Superfund site, CityFox writes: “We’re obviously now aware of the building’s history and that it is the source of deep community concern, concerns that we take very seriously, but which also caught us by surprise. We were not aware during the event production when we expended a tremendous amount of time and resources to transform the space.”
When we went over to the building to snap some photos on Tuesday evening, we found workers moving tons of heavy equipment out with a forklift and loading it into a flatbed truck. Yesterday, a source who characterized themselves as an “associate” of one construction worker who helped set up for the event contacted Gothamist. The worker (who requested that he remain anonymous) “claims he developed a rash on his chest, arms and legs while helping prepare the party space” and “believes that his skin was exposed to asbestos on the site.”
The “associate” told Gothamist the worker was there to help set up lighting and do some carpentry and electrical work: “They were setting up inside the building and that’s where they were encountering this stuff. There was asbestos everywhere.”
At the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) meeting we attended on Monday, a neighbor cited the building’s known asbestos contamination. Yi Han, co-owner of the building claimed that asbestos was only found on the roof. Neighbors shot back: “But they were on the roof, we saw them–” in reference, presumably, to people setting up for the party.
According to a document shared by Environmental Stewardship Concepts, the consulting firm hired by NAG to work as a community liaison during the Superfund assessment and cleanup process, asbestos abatement was carried out in 2006. However it appears the cleanup process was incomplete. Gothamist refers to DEC records that indicate another round of asbestos removal was carried out this year.
Still, the main concern, as expressed by NAG, elected officials, and the Greenpoint community is the fact that somehow a rave on a Superfund site was given the green light. Lentol writes: “The fact that Cityfox was able to obtain permits within such a short period of time, let alone at a Superfund site, is very disturbing.”
Click thumbnails below to enlarge images of Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol’s letter to the State Attorney General.