Local Community Boards are an integral part of the approval process to close down a City street for a block party. As the cold, gray dreariness of winter in New York City subsides and the summer weather brings the City streets back to life, block party season is right around the corner. Throughout the streets of New York City, thousands of street related-events are held annually. In the interests of ensuring safety and maintaining order, the City and local Community Boards have procedures and guidelines in place to close down a City street for an event.
The Street Activity Permit Office, within the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Events Coordination and Management, issues permits for events with street activity such as block parties and other events on the City’s streets and sidewalks. The local Community Board may impose additional guidelines as well. Specialized permit applications for different types of events can be found here.
Block parties are public events sponsored by members of the community and require a permit from the Street Activity Permit Office. An application for a block party permit must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the event. Applicants for a block party permit must be given permission by the other residents of the block and thus may be beneficial for prospective block party hosts to form a block association with the other residents to collaborate. The Citizen’s Committee for New York City, a non-profit organization, has laid out steps to follow if you are interested in starting a block association.
The local Community Board is an integral part of the approval process when filing a block party permit application. Local Community Boards have guidelines for block parties that vary slightly from community to community such as requiring petitions with a certain amount of neighbor’s signatures and reviewing applications prior to filing. As examples, Queens Community Board 10 has laid out specific block party guidelines for the residents of the district here; Brooklyn Community Board 4 here; Brooklyn Community Board 2 here; and Brooklyn Community Board 10 here. It is essential to check with your Community Board when filing a block party permit application to ensure the guidelines are followed.
Once a block party permit application is filed with the Street Activity Permit office, the local Community Board immediately receives a copy. The Board will reach out to the block party organizer to ensure they are abiding by the Board’s individual guidelines and contact the NYPD for safety concerns. The Board will also reach out to residents of the block to confirm they are in favor of the application. The Board then approves or denies the block party permit application and submits its determination to the Street Activity Permit Office, which takes the Board’s recommendation into account. Block party permit applications are very rarely denied, last year Brooklyn Community Board 10 received and reviewed about 70 applications, all of which were approved. Some reasons for denial are that the block party permit application does not meet the criteria of a block party, such as in the circumstance of a private party, or because there have been police related activity and safety concerns related to that block in the past. Commercial and heavily trafficked streets will most likely have their block party permit application denied due to concerns with traffic flow.
Josephine Beckmann, the District Manager from Brooklyn Community Board 10 said, “The biggest issue to keep in mind if you want to host a block party is to make sure you know the rules and guidelines, plan ahead, and apply at least 60 days in advance…. the Board encourages block parties as a great way for members of the community and neighbors to come together and we are always available for questions and assistance.”
The Street Activity Permit Office will issue a block party permit if the local Community Board approves the application. Once the block part permit application has been approved, when hosting a block party there are certain rules that need to be followed. A block party is limited to nine consecutive hours on one day and on one City block. The event must be open to all residents of the block and cannot be a private party. The hosts of the event cannot charge a participation fee or fundraise. Food and beverage vendors, as well as commercial branding and sponsorships, are not permitted and the sale of food or other goods and services is prohibited.
Additional permits outside of the block party permit may be required depending on what activities and equipment will be used during the event. Rides and inflatables, such as bouncy houses, require a permit from the Department of Consumer Affairs. Petting zoos and other non-domesticated animals require a permit from the Department of Health. Raffles or donations require a permit from the Human Resources Administration. Amplified sound and music such as D.J. equipment, requires a permit from the NYPD, and power generators require a certificate from the FDNY.
Block parties are a staple in New York City during the summer months and a great way for neighbors and members of the community to come together. When planning to host a block party, ensure that all necessary guidelines and procedures are followed for obtaining a block party permit, verify with your community board and get permission from the residents on the block.
By: Thomas Columbia (Thomas is a CityLaw Intern and a New York Law School Student, Class of 2019.)