In an unconventional approach to combating crime this summer, the NYPD is set to bolster its regulation of sidewalk barbecues. Though the department views the move as necessary for safety, critics argue that it stokes the flames of racial tension and infringes on long-standing traditions.
A Brooklyn officer, with over 25 years of service, explained the strategy, saying, “We take the barbecues in an attempt to cut down on the parties and try to eliminate the shootings and fights.” Although the implementation might not be universally appreciated, the officer maintained, “You knock the barbecues out, and it helps eliminate the problem.”
Recent NYPD data underpins this approach, highlighting a significant increase in citywide shootings last July, with a shocking 50 incidents recorded over the Fourth of July weekend alone.
To stem this tide, the department is utilizing various channels, from distributing fliers to leveraging online platforms, encouraging citizens to report unsanctioned gatherings. One such flier from Harlem’s 28th Precinct declares, “No sidewalk barbecues. No public alcohol consumption. No obstruction on the sidewalk with tables, chairs, etc.”
Yet, the strategy has stoked controversy, with critics labeling it as racially motivated. Clinton Bowman, a vocal critic on TikTok, accuses the NYPD of racial bias, stating, “It’s all racism by these gentrifiers that come into these neighborhoods like Inwood, Harlem, Washington Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Bed Stuy, Hunt’s Point.”
For many residents, sidewalk barbecues represent a cherished neighborhood tradition. Makeeba Thompson, 53, a Bronx resident, passionately defends these gatherings. She said, “Considering all of the badness that’s going on in our neighborhoods nowadays, we’re not allowed to have a friendly barbecue? If it keeps our neighbors occupied, us occupied, our children occupied, then let us barbecue.”
Meanwhile, newcomers like Natasha Stefanovic, 35, who recently moved to Bed-Stuy with her family, welcome the crackdown. Bothered by the incessant noise from such gatherings, she asks, “Are the police really going to help with it?”
As the NYPD braces to douse the city’s barbecues, the simmering tension threatens to ignite a citywide debate. Though rooted in safety concerns, this controversial policy calls for careful navigation to prevent further widening societal rifts.