First-year efforts by Northeast Safety Committee “laid the groundwork” for working with the city on planning and handling activities after the annual Puerto Rican Festival, according to a committee organizer.
“It also opened up an opportunity to sit at the table and have a bigger conversation about interactions with the neighborhood,” Anthony Nunez, public information officer for the Northeast Safety Committee, said the day after the event.
He said volunteers were in the neighborhood from noon to about 9 p.m. Aug. 18. The committee had organized music, food and portable restrooms. He said most of the volunteers were on Clinton Avenue and side streets between Upper Falls Boulevard and Clifford Avenue. He said the volunteers were not security personnel and would not be out late at night.
“Everybody put in a lot of hard work and we created positive interactions for what we were able to reach,” Nunez said. “I’m very proud of everybody who came out to assist us.”
He said the committee tried to create a family atmosphere. “I had many families come up to us and thank us, saying it was beautiful to have their kids being able to spend some time having fun with the music. They enjoyed that.”
The Northeast Safety Committee formed after the 2018 festival as a way to be proactive with events that happen after the Puerto Rican Festival, which this year ran Aug. 16-18. The celebration that continues on Sunday night in the northeast is not part of the official festival at Frontier Field.
Over the winter, the committee conducted an online survey in English and Spanish and used the results to develop a plan for neighborhood after the official festival ends.
The committee met with city officials in late July and presented three suggestions:
- 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 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.
Nunez said the committee was not sure how many suggestions the city used. He said the committee was planning to hold a debriefing session with city officials.
“The city looks forward to ongoing conversations with the Northeast Safety Committee to address the post-festival activities in a positive manner,” city communications director Justin Roj wrote in response to an email seeking comment about the committee’s efforts. “We value our Puerto Rican community and the annual festival. We also understand that the events last evening are not a reflection on the community or the festival, but the actions of those that exploit the festival to engage in unacceptable behavior.”
Rochester Police reported that 25 people were arrested in the northeast the night of Aug. 18. People arrested ranged in age from 17 to 48 years old. Most of the charges were aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. There also were charges of harassment, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Of the 25 people arrested, Rochester Police said 22 are city residents.
Police said they issued verbal warnings, also deployed pepperballs and used a long range acoustical device to disperse disorderly crowds. Police said bottles were thrown at officers. No injuries to officers or civilians were reported. Police said there were no arrests at the festival site.
Nunez said there are things that happen outside of the committee’s control. “At least we put our best into it.”
This story was updated Aug. 20 with the hometowns of the people arrested.