Mosley, Electeds Lead Battle Of Religious Use Vs. Secular Use On City Property


Call it the battle for the Bedford Armory with thousands of religious men regularly cramming into the city-owned space pitted against a few thousand money-spending, music loving men and women that want it for two days.

And it looks like North Central Brooklyn Assemblyman Walter Mosley is leading all the local elected officials in support of religion having almost exclusive use of government property over private secular use.

That after Mosley, and Crown Heights Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, Assemblywoman Diana Richardson and City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo issued statements today that the city not allow the Nov. 21 and 22 Time Warp Music Festival at the Bedford Armory on Bedford Avenue between President and Union streets.

Assembly Member Walter Mosley, and other elected officials and local clergy denounce a secular music festival at the armory.
Assembly Member Walter Mosley, and other elected officials and local religious leaders clergy denounce a secular music festival at the armory.
Assemblyman Walter Mosley Jr.
Assemblyman Walter Mosley Jr.

The decommissioned, city-owned armory regularly holds gatherings for the Lubavitch and Satmar Hasidim Jewish sects, often in which women aren’t allowed, and of which just last week  drew more than 5,000 rabbis and emissaries from around the world.

“Our community is coming together because we feel this location was never constructed for the purpose of a concert venue. The main drill hall is not insulated to dampen sound and (there are) major safety concerns (that) there are not well-defined emergency exits, “said Mosley. “We simply ask that the city listen to community residents and move the event to a venue constructed to handle large volumes of people in a safe and responsible manner.”

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke

Clarke urged the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to complete a full and thorough investigation of the application submitted for the Time Warp Festival to hold an electronic music festival in a residential community.

“We must remember that there are thousands of people living near the Bedford Armory, which was never intended to function as a concert hall. The potential for noise violations and mass gatherings of this nature requires an extensive review and vetting of the application and all persons associated with this unprecedented event,” said Clarke.

Hamilton said every well-planned event requires community consultation and finding the right venue can never exclude the surrounding community.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton
State Sen. Jesse Hamilton

“This two-day rave failed to get community input—had they consulted the community, they would have found that this event does not fit the Bedford-Union Armory. The rave’s website says it is built ‘by artist collectives, technicians and interdisciplinary creatives from all over the world,’ but the world they refer to does not include Crown Heights. It does not include the creative spirit from our part of Brooklyn. Parties should not turn their backs on the neighborhood. That is why I will stand with my neighbors against holding this event here,” said Hamilton.

Cumbo said while Brooklyn is known worldwide for its cultural diversity and deep appreciation for the arts, she is concerned by the lack of community engagement and involvement to assess the potential impact of the Time Warp Festival on the quality of life for the residents of Crown Heights.

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo
City Council Member Laurie Cumbo

“The two-day music festival would exacerbate pre-existing issues such as limited parking, traffic congestion, and sanitation that local stakeholders have worked hard to resolve. An event of this magnitude should not be held in the backyards of the men and women denied their opportunity to voice their concerns and ensure that the necessary measures are in place to preserve the peace, cleanliness, and safety of the surrounding community,” said Cumbo.

But Time Warp Music Festival spokeswoman Karen Tzeiler countered in an email that Time Warp is not a rave, but a “venerable, globally recognized celebration of music with high-level production, featuring 27 artists from 12 different countries.”

“Time Warp has a proven record of safe and successful events. At last year’s event at Pier 39 in Brooklyn, the Chief of the 72nd Police Precinct and the local community board were so pleased that they wrote letters of endorsement,” she said.

Tzeiler said Time Warp organizers have gone to great lengths to minimize disruption to the community, including hiring acoustical engineers to soundproof the venue especially for this event, hiring 10 shuttle buses between the Atlantic Terminal subway stop and the Armory, to keep people, noise and debris off the streets, and fulfilling all permit requirements.

“This event will have a substantial positive financial impact on the community. Sixty percent of ticket buyers are coming from outside of New York, traveling from 33 different countries and 43 states. Our staff alone has rented 100 local hotel rooms and will be patronizing all local restaurants,” she said, adding organizers would be happy to meet with any community members to walk them through our plans.

But Rabbi Eli Cohen, Executive Director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, led a bevy of local Jewish and Christian clergy leaders in denouncing the secular music festival on government property, perhaps not knowing that the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution holds that the government is prohibited from promoting specific religious beliefs.

“We’re not saying the armory shouldn’t be used, but for what kind of events it should be used for. It should be used for appropriate events. It’s (Time Warp Festival) an all nighter. There are issues of what goes on in there and the condition of people coming out,” Cohen said.