Bushwick’s Puerto Rican Day Parade Shows Hispanic Unity Amid Gentrification

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While most Puerto Rican New York City residents celebrated their heritage at the annual Fifth Avenue parade in Manhattan, one Brooklyn neighborhood held its own official inaugural celebration on Sunday.

Bushwick was jammed pack with people who took to the streets to gather in the festivities organized by local politicians, non-profit organizations and commercial businesses in the community.

Assemblywoman Maritza Davila
City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr.

Assemblywoman Maritza Davila (D-Bushwick, Williamsburg) was one of several supporters who advocated for the event and helped secure a permit to hold the parade along Knickerbocker Avenue.

“Thank you to everyone who came out Sunday to celebrate the First Annual Knickerbocker Avenue PR Parade,” Davila tweeted. “It was a true constellation that we are still here in Bushwick united with diversity.”

The topic of unity was the theme of the event as the neighborhood faces a change in demographics from the trend of gentrification that has occurred over the years.

“It was great to see so many people united on the streets of Knickerbocker Avenue to celebrate Puerto Rico.” said City Councilmember Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick, East New York). “It is a reminder that Puerto Rican roots are still strong in Bushwick and North Brooklyn. I’m looking forward to it again next year.”

Custom cars were part of the parade. Photo by Roberto Padilla.

The community, known for its heavy Puerto Rican population, was particularly happy with the proximity of the parade and its acknowledgment of their heritage. There were plenty of antique cars, floats, and graffiti-covered trains decorated with the Puerto Rican flag designed on the avenue.

A family shows their Puerto Rican pride. Photo by Roberto Padilla.

For some, the feeling was nostalgic and brought a sense of community to the area despite the changes it’s seen.

“I loved how the parade brought all Bushwick Puerto Ricans together for the first time in years,” said Robert Padilla, a native resident of the community.

The parade began at 3 p.m. on Linden Street, through Knickerbocker Avenue and ended on Jefferson Street. Knickerbocker is predominantly a commercially zoned avenue within Bushwick. It has been known to be a major shopping area within the community.

The event was followed by an after party held at the “House of Yes” venue located on the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Jefferson Street. The party was hosted by DJ Carlito, a Bushwick resident and on-air personality for the popular Latino radio station La Mega 97.9 FM. This year, Carlito served as the Grand Marshall of the parade.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and NYPD Patrol Borough Chief Jeffery Maddrey both made appearances serving as the parade’s padrinos or “godfathers.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez (3rd From Left), NYPD Patrol Borough Chief Jeffery Maddrey & District Leader Tommy Torres. Contributed photo.

In past years, Puerto Ricans have taken to Knickerbocker Avenue after the annual Puerto Rican Day parade on Fifth Avenue and occupied the streets with cars and bicycles- holding their own make-shift parade.

However, no permit was granted for such an event to have occurred- making the occupancy illegal. It resulted in police closing down certain major avenues on the day of the city-sponsored parade for years in order to enforce the flow of traffic and maintain public safety.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Assemblywoman Maritza Davila.

The Puerto Rican Knickerbocker Parade is expected to continue to occur in conjunction with the annual Fifth Avenue Parade annually.

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