Two Halloween parties with hundreds of guests dancing and drinking inside warehouses were broken up by New York City authorities this weekend, as officials strive to curb behavior that they worry could fuel a second wave of the pandemic.
A party in Brooklyn with nearly 400 people was broken up by city sheriffs early Saturday morning. About 24 hours later, the sheriff’s office shut down another party with more than 550 people in the Bronx.
Twenty-eight people — including party organizers, D.J.s and security guards — and two businesses face a variety of charges in connection with the parties, including a failure to protect health and safety in violation of the city’s health code.
Revelers wore costumes, but only a few people were wearing face masks or social distancing, said Sheriff Joseph Fucito.
It was not clear if organizers failed to understand or simply ignored the dangers of large indoor gatherings, given the months of warnings from experts and officials. “I wish I had the wisdom to explain human nature,” Sheriff Fucito said.
Together, the parties speak to the continuing challenges of keeping the spread of the coronavirus in check, particularly as the winter approaches and people grow tired of restrictions on crowds. That danger is only increasing as the weather cools and several holidays approach.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s infection rate was 1.57 percent, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Saturday that the statewide rate of positive test results was 1.53 percent, which was among the lowest in the country. But both Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio have acknowledged concern that the numbers may rise; they have already gone up since the beginning of September, when the city positivity rate hovered below 1 percent, according to state data.
After months of controlling the spread of the virus, outbreaks in Brooklyn and Queens last month raised widespread alarm that the city may be experiencing the beginnings of a second wave. Officials ramped up restrictions in some neighborhoods, and Mr. de Blasio said on Friday that the situation appeared to be stabilizing.
Still, the episode, as well as a resurgence of the virus across much of the country, has illustrated how quickly the pandemic can rebound, and Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio have discouraged travel and gatherings during the holidays.
Enforcement of coronavirus-related regulations continues to be a key part of officials’ strategy to combat the pandemic. As of Oct. 23, the state had suspended the liquor licenses of 238 businesses for violating those regulations.
Still, policing parties and events at both illicit and legal venues, which in some cases have led to outbreaks, remains a challenge. Long Island health officials last week scrambled to contain an outbreak in Suffolk County when dozens of people tested positive for the virus after attending a Sweet 16 party in September.
Sheriff Fucito said on Sunday that for the past three months, his office has responded to about one large event every evening.
“Making a difference is a very hard thing to justify in law enforcement, you don’t know what you’ve deterred,” he said. “Maybe you deterred one event or two events. ”
Sheriff Fucito said that the authorities learned of the party in Brooklyn, which took place on Meadow Street in Williamsburg, on the internet. Deputies drove to the area and saw about 150 people wearing Halloween costumes going into the warehouse and saw security guards outside, according to the sheriff’s office.
At about 1 a.m. Saturday, deputies entered the warehouse and found 387 people, Halloween decorations, a D.J. and three bars inside, the sheriff’s office said. Eight people and one business, Norman Kingsland LLC, face charges and fines in connection with the party.
The next night, Sheriff Fucito said he was patrolling an industrial area in the Bronx when he saw people “wearing costumes in the middle of nowhere.” The authorities began observing the warehouse at 1420 Seabury Avenue in the Westchester Square area and saw more than 150 people entering the warehouse in Halloween costumes.
Inside, deputies found more than 557 people, Halloween decorations, two D.J.s, one large bar and a food truck in a truck-loading berth in the warehouse, according to the sheriff’s office. Twenty people and one business, Abe V. Systems Inc., face charges and fines in connection with the party.
A person who answered a phone number listed for Abe V. Systems, who identified himself only as Dave, said that the company had rented the building out for a virtual event but only recently found out about the party.
A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, Mitch Schwartz, said on Sunday that the “vast majority of New Yorkers celebrated Halloween responsibly last night.”
He added: “Those who didn’t should probably think hard about how long they want this pandemic to last. As always, we’re grateful to the sheriff’s team for fighting to prevent a second wave.”
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