Newark denies Skidfest permit
Published: Monday, October 31, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 04:11
For the third time in a row, the city of Newark denied the permit request to host the charity music festival Skidfest, according to residents of Skid Row, located on Academy Street.
Skidfest, one of the few off-campus, student-run community events, was scheduled for Oct. 29, but one week before the scheduled date, Skidfest organizers received a letter from city officials stating their request had not been approved.
"It was a total shock because we were 100 percent certain that it was approved," said senior Daniel Klein, one of the main organizers of the event. "I feel it wasn't a coincidence that they waited until one week before the event. They gave us no time to do anything about it. It was a total slap in the face."
With the exception of the last year and a half, residents of Skid Row have hosted the event bi-annually for the last 20 years. Spring semester's Skidfest was postponed due to ongoing construction at the site of the university bookstore on Main Street.
This fall, Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder workers and bookstore employees were concerned about the events' impact on the area, according to Lt. George Stanko, special events coordinator for the Newark Police Department. These worries significantly influenced the eventual denial of the permit.
"There was great concern at Barnes & Noble that intoxicated people would be walking through the store and they do not have the staff to handle that," Stanko said. "There was also concern because of the fire department being right there. I've worked Skidfest in the past, and there are always problems for the fire company to deal with intoxicated people on their property and the trash and the people trespassing."
Klein understood the music festival's cancellation last year when the new university bookstore was under construction, but said he's confused by the city's argument that the event would disrupt neighbors now.
"Did they really think people are going to get drunk and want to go buy books?" he said. "That they would want to hang out there instead of hang out [at Skid Row] and listen to music? It doesn't make any sense."
Skid Row resident and junior Maxwell Gillman, another organizer of the event, said what upsets him most about the situation is that he feels police officials neglected to read their application at all, in which Skid Row residents addressed each issue the police had with the festival in the past and responded to it with a solution.
"For example, one of their concerns was glass in the parking lot adjacent to our backyard," Gillman said. "But we had specifically stated [in our application] there wasn't going to be glass bottles allowed."
Although police and city officials have already dissolved similar events like Chapelfest and Wilburfest, Skid Row residents remain optimistic. Klein said his hope is to have a serious, face-to-face conversation with police officials involved and try to work out their issues.
"I think it's absurd for them to deny our permits and not work with us, and not give us the time of day to answer an email or phone call," Klein said. "We're a big party but also a big charity and community event. We could do it and not tell anybody. But we've chosen to do it their way. There's plenty of frat events every day of the week that don't do that and I think that's probably a bigger issue."
In the past, Skidfest raised more than $11,000 to build a hospital in Haiti, following the earthquake that struck the country in January 2010.
Stanko said new changes to the area and past problems led to the decision to cancel the event.
"With the new construction and development in that area, it's hard to put a large group of people there without impacting the whole downtown area," he said. "We've had some violence in the past and even with police officers present, it's still dangerous putting people in that confined area."
Klein said the application stated organizers would hire off-duty officers to patrol outside the event and hire private officials for inside the event.
"There are people of all ages that come—students and parents alike. Last time, in spring 2009, kids brought their parents and a lot of alumni came back for it too," Gillman said. "We say it's great for the market of Newark, it brings in a ridiculous number of people. Because the event goes so long, people rotate in and out, go get some lunch, shop on Main Street—that weekend Newark is pretty bustling. They seem to recognize that in their letter but refuse to work with us despite it."