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Northeast Neighbors Present Proposal for Events After Puerto Rican Festival

Patti Singer

One of the posters from the Northeast Safety Committee to promote responsibility during activities after the Puerto Rican Festival. Provided by Northeast Safety Committee

A group of northeast Rochester residents has presented the mayor with a proposal to contain the boisterous caravan that springs up on Sunday night after the annual Puerto Rican Festival.

The street party is not part of the official event, which this year takes place Aug. 16-18 at Frontier Field. But the large crowd and police response along North Clinton Avenue and nearby streets often are what the neighborhood and the rest of the city remember, rather than the family-friendly celebration of Puerto Rican heritage at the official venue.

The Northeast Safety Committee met July 29 with Mayor Lovely Warren to ask that the city set up one-way traffic around several blocks and add temporary lighting on side streets in the hours after the festival ends.

The proposal also asked that nonprofit organizations and community groups be able to use vacant lots to set up displays and provide information about their services.

The suggestions came after the committee posted an online survey that asked people whether they participated in the festival and/or unofficial activities and what they’d like to see in the neighborhood after the event.

Anthony Nunez, public information officer for the Northeast Safety Committee, said the group presented a “well thought out and researched” proposal to the mayor and received positive feedback. He said the city is working on a plan that would have it partner with the committee.

Nunez said that more meetings will be held to finalize a plan. The committee will launch a campaign to promote safety.

“I think it was a pleasant surprise to have a community group come out and say we … want to help,” Nunez said. “I’m sure there are many people who come out and say ‘I want to see change,’ but very few people who say ‘I’d like to see a change like this … and give them options.”

“Instead of saying this is terrible in August and then in September you forget about it, we were, let’s see what we can do to be proactive,” Nunez said.

The Northeast Safety Committee started after 20 people were arrested during street parties following the end of the 2018 festival. The previous year, 15 people were arrested in the northeast.

The all-volunteer committee has about 20 members and no budget, Nunez said. The focus is on events after the festival. “It seems like the big-ticket item.”

Attempts to reach city officials were not immediately successful.

The committee’s proposal

Nunez said the committee is trying to bring a sense of organization with festivities in the North Clinton Avenue neighborhood without creating another official event. The committee wants to control the flow of cars, improve pedestrian safety and create activities that reduce the number of people wandering the streets.

The committee made three specific suggestions to the city:

  • Create temporary one-way traffic in a rectangle formed by Upper Falls Boulevard, Joseph Avenue, Avenue D, and North Clinton Avenue. The goal is to keep the unused lane open for emergency vehicles and to keep pedestrians on the sidewalks and to direct attention to designated and controlled routes.
  • Add temporary lighting, speed humps and deploy Department of Environmental Services vehicles at Bauman Street and Avenue D, Herald and North streets, Joseph Avenue and Wilkins Street, Portland and Clifford avenues and Avenue A and North Clinton Avenue. The goal is to light up dark areas, reduce the speed of traffic on side streets and manage traffic flow.
  • Invite community groups and agencies to use vacant lots at 814-844 N. Clinton Ave., 1081-1901 N. Clinton Ave., 555 Avenue D, 657-687 Joseph Ave. and 615-625 Clifford Ave. The goal is to reduce congestion on streets and at intersections and have designated activities where volunteers will be stationed.

What the survey said

The survey, conducted over the winter and posted in English and Spanish, received 835 responses. On average, people spent 4 minutes 56 seconds on the survey.

The Northeast Safety Committee plans several posters and messages to encourage people to be safe if they participate in events after the Puerto Rican Festival. Provided photo

Some highlights:

  • Respondents represented 10 states, including Alaska and Florida.
  • In addition to city residents, respondents represented 24 Monroe County towns and villages.
  • People ages 30 to 59 made up 69% of respondents.
  • 63.43% percent of respondents identified as Hispanic/Latino.
  • 64% of respondents attend the Puerto Rican Festival.
  • 88% do not attend events in the northeast after the festival.
  • 54% said an event should follow the festival.
  • As for what that event should be, 30% percent said neighborhood block party; 16.8% said caravan/parade, 43.7% said both and 9.4% said something else.
  • 89% viewed the current parade/caravan unfavorably or somewhat unfavorably.
  • 63.39% of respondents have an unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable view toward the street gatherings.

In a summary of the survey, the committee said that since 88% of respondents do not attend any of the northeast activities, “we must be cautious in assuming these results and recommendations speak to those who actually engage in activities in the northeast.”

The committee also said there could be room to improve the parade and make it more inclusive of the community.

Nunez said the committee understands that results may not be immediate. “We understand this is going on for 20 years. We’re not expecting in one day, in one try at this, we’ll be able to make a dramatic change in what happens. We hope for that. But now that the process has started, we’ve come to realize this is going to take a few years to get data to see if we make a positive change in that area.”