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Councilmember propses legislation to combat ‘house clubs’

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/11/2013, 11:52 a.m. | Updated on 7/11/2013, 11:52 a.m.

A recent shooting at a house party in East Flatbush has Council Member Jumaane Williams calling for new rules when it comes to large gatherings in residential neighborhoods and cracking down on “house clubs.”

Last week, shots were fired following a reported dispute over someone being denied entrance to an overcrowded party on East 52nd Street in East Flatbush. Four men and five women in the crowd that had spilled out onto the street were hit by the gunfire. All of them are currently listed in stable condition.

Williams, after expressing his concern that this shooting incident may be a harbinger of things to come this summer, spoke of the responsibility to be proactive and ensured that public safety is a community priority.

“Out of control house parties are not only a safety hazard; they are unfair to the residents of quiet communities who have to deal with illegal block parties in the guise of private get-togethers,” said Williams. “Homeowners living in residential neighborhoods did not sign up for living next to clubs, much less shooting galleries.”

Williams recently announced that he is exploring legislation that would call for any person holding a gathering of 40 people or more at a residence to notify the local community board and police precinct three days in advance of the event. It would not require the registration of house parties.

The law, which would be applied to party promoters as well as tenants and owners of the location, would assist law enforcement in doing its job, give homeowners greater peace of mind and advance community transparency. He is also considering instituting penalties for those who avoid these notification measures and wind up having over 100 people show up to a private home, as well as fines for promoters who advertise on social media and seek cover charges.

“We need to take steps to better our community, to educate our youth,” said Dr. Gail Reed-Barnett, chair of Community Board 17. “We need to let them know that life is very precious and that it should not be taken for granted.”

However, upon Williams’ announcement of the proposed legislation, critics wasted no time in saying that the law could impend on resident’s rights to have gatherings. Others say the legislation could give police the right to enter homes and make frivoulous arrests.

Williams’ announcement comes on the heels of the victory of getting the Community Safety Act (CSA), which he sponsored, passed by the City Council to bring sweeping reforms to the NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk. Some of his critics say his new proposed legislation contradicts the CSA.

Focusing on avoiding another shooting similar to the one during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Williams said he believes that house clubs that are advertised on social media, charge admission and sell alcohol are to blame. Williams said he’s not attacking church, community and family gatherings.

“There was a lot of confusion when I announced this proposed legislation. What this does is that it lets the community know that this is going on. It does not give the NYPD access to your home. If the community board and the Police Department know about a gathering, then we can inform people when they call and complain about what time it will end.”

Williams added that on the night of the shooting that injured nine people, more than 300 people were in attendance at the party.

“Our goal should not be to deter well-intentioned individuals from having controlled parties and get-togethers in the comfort of their own home; the vast majority of New Yorkers are doing the right thing,” he said. “At the same time, we need to have their safety at heart, and as this community’s elected representative, I intend to pursue legislation that directly addresses unscrupulous promoters who charge attendance for parties and create crowded and dangerous situations.”