The head of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy this week strongly denied a Brooklyn Paper story that her group had replaced a popular hip-hop festival with a production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” saying the decision to give away the rap event’s June, 2008, dates was made entirely by state Parks officials.
In denying The Brooklyn Paper report last week (“Hip-hop fest flap,” Sept. 29), Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Executive Director Marianna Koval said that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation — not the Conservancy — gave the dates to the St. Ann’s Warehouse production of the Bard’s famous Scottish play.
Indeed, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy does not, as The Brooklyn Paper reported, control bookings at Empire–Fulton Ferry State Park, which is situated on the DUMBO waterfront between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. The Conservancy is a booking partner with the state, but its bookings must be approved by state Park officials — a process that Koval said she hopes will still happen with the hip-hop festival, which has been in the park for two years.
“We think it should be there, and we are making that case to state Parks,” Koval told The Brooklyn Paper this week.
The Paper’s front-page report was based on comments from festival organizer Wes Jackson, who charged that the allocation of the dates to the Shakespeare production rather than the hip-hop festival was racially motivated.
“Hip hop brings a lot more brown people to this neighborhood, and people who live here are not comfortable with it,” Jackson said in our article.
This week, Jackson confirmed the accuracy of the quotation, but claimed that the comment had been taken out of context. He said that he had been referring to a different hip-hop event he produced in DUMBO last year.
He backed up Koval’s claim that the Conservancy is a staunch supporter of the hip-hop festival.
“They have helped me in untold ways,” he said.
On Monday, Jackson put out a press release claiming that the hip-hop festival was “moving … to early July, tentatively July 12.”
But Rachel Gordon, state Parks’ regional director, said that no date has been set for the festival — and that a date may never be set. As Jackson suggested in the original article, Gordon told The Brooklyn Paper this week that the rap festival may indeed not be “suitable” for the Empire–Fulton Ferry State Park.
But she denied that race would play any role in the decision whether to allow the hip-hop festival to be produced in Empire–Fulton Ferry State Park.
“We make decisions based on impact on the park — and with this festival, there were capacity issues,” Gordon said. “The capacity of the park is 4,000. And they had 6,000. We’re very clear about capacity. They said their counter broke, but it is their responsibility and they didn’t meet it well.”
When Gordon’s comment was relayed to Jackson, he said it was the first he’d heard of it.
“I was not aware that they had a problem with capacity,” he said.
In his own press release, though, Jackson admitted that large crowds raise some concerns.
“Because of reasons fair and unfair, when you say ‘hip-hop,’ people get concerned,” he said in his statement. “We produce a large event that brought over 10,000 people over a three-day period to a residential neighborhood. These are homeowners who may not want to hear Tony Starks [rapper Ghostface Killah] outside their front window. This is why other large music festivals and concerts, like Coachella and Rock the Bells, are done in out-of-the-way places. Our festival is in Brooklyn, in the community. And that brings along with it a new set of issues.
“Thankfully we have not had a single incident in three years. Anyone who has been to the Festival can attest to the positivity and diversity.”
Koval said that she is in discussions with the state Parks agency about resolving the capacity issues. “Rachel and I agreed last week that we will have a longer conversation about this,” Koval said.