As the weather starts to warm up (and then freeze, and then warm up again), it’s time to start thinking of ways to get yourself outside. New York City has many wonderful parks and greenways, but if you’ve ever tried to organize events or games in said parks, you know that it’s not as easy as making an evite and getting a “reserved” plaque from the city. I’ve founded and run a street hockey league and a concert non-profit, and I can tell you, making the most out of the parks is a painful process. If you’re willing to cut some corners, however, and shrink your scale, you can still get something out of the parks without putting yourself into the middle of an elaborate bureaucracy.
Concerts: When I first got the idea with friends to put on concerts at the East River Amphitheatre a la DC’s Fort Reno concert series, I had no idea that A) Fort Reno was originally a choral series that maintained its ties to a church, which is why the local Parks Department gave them free reign despite putting on shows with bands like Fugazi and Q and Not U who were 100% Jesus-free, and B) The only resource offered by the East River Amphitheatre was the stage and half-shell, and that, without god on my side, getting all the other resources together (power, equipment, toilets, permits, actual bands) would take a miracle.
If you’ve ever seen the ‘80s hip-hop opus Wild Style (or the random Erin Brockovich TV special ABC made after 9/11 where they gave her $2 million to fix-up the amphitheatre after years of disrepair, as seen in this 1991 Helmet video), you know how amazing the theatre is. The original site of Shakespeare in the Park, the East River Amphitheatre is a striking concrete structure with cables extending out from the lip of the shell that covers the stage, and since the who stage is open, you can see the boats passing by behind as bands perform. It’s at the lower end of East River Park near Grand Street and FDR Drive, and while it’s not easy to get to from the train, it’s such a beautiful venue that my friends and I spent years hustling, begging, and busting our asses in order to make the most of it.
What we were planning back then was a full-scale concert series as a 501c3, but if you’d like to have a small barbeque down by the river in the summer where a bunch of your buddies play solo guitar through a mini-battery-powered amp on one of the most amazing stages in the city, you can probably get away with it if there’s no major concert scheduled that day (and all the nearby parties don’t totally drown you out).
There are actual barbeque areas nearby, and if you’re willing to start your event a little later in the day, one of them will probably free up after being jammed all day with birthdays and quinceaneras. Take the F Train to Delancey. Head East, stop and pick up some snacks and beverages on the way (although be careful with the beverages, because this isn’t a super-heavily trafficked park, but it’s very close to the 7th Precinct). Just don’t let the complications of using the park for the people discourage you from using it for you and yours.
Next time: Sportz!