Motorcycle Event Q: “Chaos” Or “Joy”?

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Thomas Breen photosDueling press conferences in the Annex Wednesday painted an upcoming motorcycle event as a potential scene of disruptive and illegal “chaos”—or one of safe and controlled “joy.”

Both sides seemed to agree on at least one point: Like it or not, thousands of motorcyclists will be descending on Forbes Avenue Saturday. So get ready, New Haven.

Those press conferences took place back to back Wednesday morning outside of the New Haven Police Department substation at 830 Woodward Ave.

The first was held by Mayor Justin Elicker and Interim Police Chief Renee Dominguez. The second held by EastCoastin founders and organizers Gabe Canestri Jr. and Sal Fusco.

The annual event is slated to take place this Saturday. That’s when city officials and EastCoastin organizers expect up to 3,000 motorcyclists from across the country to drive down to the Hole in the Wall motorcycle club on Forbes Avenue, and to fill the Annex’s surrounding industrial streets. Police have sought to discourage people from attending by posting on social media that the event has been “cancelled.” The organizers have insisted on social media that, whatever the NHPD says, the event is still taking place.

Mayor, Police: “If We Need To Charge, We Will”

Backed by a half-dozen white-shirted police supervisors, Elicker and Dominguez took one more stab at convincing EastCoastin organizers and attendees to stay home on Saturday.

“We want to make absolutely clear that this event is not permitted and will not be tolerated,” Elicker said.

“New Haven is a place where people deserve to feel safe. They deserve to have a high quality of life. We are telling people: Do not come to this event. Do not come to this event if you care about New Haven’s public safety. Do not come to this event if you care about the fact that we’re devoting police resources to this event [that could be directed elsewhere.] Do not come to this event if you respect our city.”

Both Elicker and Dominguez acknowledged, however, that—despite their admonitions—thousands of motorcyclists will likely be coming to Forbes Avenue anyway this weekend, just as they’ve done for each of the past five years.

Dominguez estimated that 10,000 people attended last year’s EastCoastin event. She described the event as “disruptive,” and then backtracked on that word, saying it was too “kind” of a way to describe what happened.

“There was a lot of chaos,” she said. “There was a lot of individuals not following the law.”

She and the mayor said that New Haven will have a “significant” police presence in and around Forbes Avenue on Saturday.

“Parking will be enforced,” Dominguez said. “Ticketing and towing will be enforced. And, if necessary, arrests will be made.”

Arrests for what kinds of offenses?

For everything from motor vehicle violations to, potentially, “inciting a riot,” Dominguez said. She said the NHPD is in contact with the state’s attorney’s office about what kinds of charges might be appropriate for what kinds of activity wind up taking place at the EastCoastin event.

Dominguez said that the local police department issued warrants for “several individuals after the fact” following last year’s EastCoastin event. “If we need to charge, we will,” she said about this year’s gathering.

Hill Alder Carmen Rodriguez said that EastCoastin doesn’t affect just the Annex. Its impact ripples out citywide.

She said she was on Long Wharf during last year’s EastCoastin event and saw thousands of motorcyclists, many revving their engines and riding to and from the Annex.

“Chaos erupts” when EastCoastin takes place, she said. “Shame on these two young men” for going ahead with this event without a legal permit. “We have two selfish young men who are going to fill their pockets” and leave the city in disarray.

Click here to watch that first press conference.

EastCoastin Organizers: “Motorcycles Bring A Lot Of Joy”

Right after the official city press conference ended Wednesday, Fusco and Canestri held an impromptu presser of their own, during which they defended the annual motorcycle event and described it as safe, clean, and inevitable.

“We don’t want to make this chaos,” Fusco said. “We want to make this a good time.” Where motorcyclists can come down for one day, enjoy each others’ company, drive around a little, maybe enjoy a few motorcycle tricks, and then head home safe and sound.

Fusco and Canestri said they tried to work with the city and the police on making the event legal and permitted. They said they never got a clear answer from the city on what they needed to do make the event legit. (The mayor and police chief, meanwhile, said they have spoken with the organizers for months, pointing them toward how to pull the appropriate permit and limit the event to a legal and reasonable size. They said the organizers dragged their feet.)

Fusco and Canestri said that area hotels are already sold out for people looking to attend the event. Even if the organizers put out a message saying EastCoastin is cancelled, which they won’t be doing, people would still show up anyway, they said.

“We can say it. But they’re still going to want to come to New Haven to see all the cool spots here,” Fusco said.

“No matter what we say,” Canestri added, “people are still going to come to this area. It is what it is, at this point. People are gonna come, and we’re gonna stay true to it.”

What happens at a typical EastCoastin gathering?

Fusco said the group has “some of the best Harley Davidson stunt riders” in the country attend. People come out to “watch motorcycle stunts, burnouts, things like that. There’s food in the backyard. It’s free. People just come to watch and enjoy it.”

“Motorcycles bring a lot of joy,” Fusco added. “We hope people come, have a good time, stay safe,” and head home—with no arrests, and in good spirits.

Fusco and Canestri also said that, from what they understand, the Hells Angels will not be attending and will not be providing security at Saturday’s event. A source told the Independent for a previous article that the Hells Angels would be providing “tight security” on Saturday. Fusco and Canestri said they didn’t know where that rumor came from, and that it’s not true.

Click here to watch their presser.

Tags: EastCoastin, Renee Dominguez, Justin Elicker, New Haven Police Department, Sal Fusco, Gabe Canestri Jr.

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Comments

posted by: Heather C. on September 22, 2021  4:48pm

manofthepeople- we have had plenty of peaceful BLM rallies and marches all around the East Coast with no violence or property destruction. Get your facts straight.
MamaBear- “ Permits should not be granted for any motorized vehicle racing within city limits unless a safe track is built and noise and safety controls are in place. Many large lots of land and closed buildings are available all across the state.” -Yes, exactly my thoughts, the organizers need to work with the State and the city to find a more appropriate venue where it won’t disturb the public and people who like this sort of thing can enjoy themselves safely.
YancyC- “Motorcycles bring a lot of joy.”  As long as that’s the case, these types of events will occur.  This is a whole subculture.“- Yes, as long as we allow the sale of these vehicles we have to have spaces where people can ride these vehicles. It is a whole subculture and it needs a safe, appropriate venue to locate this activity.
stevehamm-“ I appreciate the joy that these young people get from riding fast, making a lot of noise, showing off their skills, and taking risks. I wish they could be more responsible to their families and to society, though.”- I agree, that’s why the organizers need to find a more appropriate venue. There is a way that a venue could be profitable for the operators and could allow enthusiasts to enjoy these vehicles in a safe space. Much like monster truck events, demolition derbies, track car racing, motorcycle rallies or other motorized vehicle events there is an audience for this type of thing for riders and spectators. Of course with global warming fossil fuel vehicles will soon have to be outlawed and turned into quiet electric vehicles which won’t be as much fun for this crowd. But until that happens and the culture changes, there needs to be an alternative venue to city streets and a less adversarial relationship with the public. There are plenty of enthusiasts that aren’t hooligans.

posted by: acboyle on September 22, 2021  5:05pm

Donaldo404 – if you lived on the east shore you’d know this event is a major problem. We’re still a part of New Haven—we pay the same taxes you do, so why is it okay for us to have such a disruption but not the rest of the city? I nearly got hit by motorcycles when I was walking my dog last year when this event was on.  These people do not respect the road or others around them. 

These people did not want to make their event legal. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt w/r/t New Haven being wishy washy about what the group needed to do to get a permit, this group would have reached out to every town in the surrounding area to see who would play ball with such an event after New Haven wasn’t.  There’s no discussion of this because that they didn’t try, or if they did, they were shut down so fast that they were embarrassed to share and lose their boogeyman of the City of New Haven.  These people just want to have a big show and make trouble in front of a captive audience in a dense neighborhood.

Newsflash to everyone who says that this should be permitted—no municipality wants people tearing up their roads or fairgrounds on dangerous vehicles to do tricks, even in a controlled way. This isn’t a charity ride for cancer, or a legitimate sporting event. We should only inconvenience our citizens by shutting down roads and disrupting the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property for activities of social value that don’t cause life-threatening injuries regularly.

posted by: Oliver Gaffney on September 22, 2021  10:45pm

Forget Sturgis. Connecticut used to have a rather sizable motorcycle gathering each Sunday.

In its heyday, the crowds at the old Marcus Dairy (and for miles around Danbury) were regularly in the thousands and could number as many as 25,000 on Super Sundays (or so the News-Times says). Despite the sheer number of riders, I remember the gatherings as being pretty tame and not too controversial. There was mutual understanding between the venue, the organizers, and local law enforcement to keep everybody on their best behavior, and for the most part, it prevailed. When some riders began breaking away to the mall and nearby streets to perform stunts, burnouts and trick rides, the whole affair got shut down for a bit and the organizers took the heat from the City government for causing the trouble.

In contrast, the EastCoastin event does not have organizers so much as instigators. They are happy to post on social media and profit from the merch, but they want none of the responsibility. The lack of ticket sales, concessions, portable restroom facilities, aid stations, paramedics, traffic control, security, insurance policies, and a legitimate venue is not an accident. Properly planning for these contingencies takes serious time and money, and the Hole n the Wall club has been allowed to foist it off on taxpayers for the past several years.

I disagree with the premise that this is a joyful celebration of motorcycle culture: it’s puerile self-aggrandizement. The club needs to be held accountable for the anti-social and unsafe behavior that this event draws to city. We’ve tried doing it the “hands off” way previously. Maybe citations (or arrests) for trespass, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, unlawful assembly, and/or rioting will send a clearer message?