Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Electric Zoo Lobbying Mayor de Blasio Aides For Randall's Island Return After Fiascle

Two officers stand watch at the Ward's Island footbridge  the day the city finally cancelled the event in the wake of two deaths, a rape, and after nineteen people were treated for drugs,  and  31 people were arrested.   (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 

The NYPD blanketed Randall's Island after the Electric Zoo event was abruptly cancelled. 

Organizers of the concert have hired high-powered lobbyist Mike McKeon and Patrick Jenkins to lobby Mayor de Blasio's aides in an attempt to make a 2014 return.

Randall's Island

By Geoffrey Croft

The organizers of the controversial Electric Zoo rave event have been quietly lobbying Mayor de blasio's top aids in an effort to be allowed back on Randall's Island.

Organizers hired high-powered lobbyist Mike McKeon, whose firm, Mercury Public Affairs, raised $32,520 for Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and inauguration to secure a permit after last years debacle according to the New York Daily News.

Two concertgoers died from overdoses, nineteen other attendees were treated,  a 16-year-old girl was raped,   and thirty-one people were arrested including two felonies over two days of the planned three-day dance music rave festival.

Arrest charges ranged from drug sales, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of controlled substances.   A lack of security and screening for under age concert goers also came under fire from several sources working at the event.

Electric Zoo area after the cancellation. Randall's Island's largest unprogrammed area of the park has been allowed to be converted into commercial uses for up to five months a year by the Randall's Island Park Alliance in cooperation with the city.

The 16-year-old teen woke up on the first day of the three day event under a van in a parking lot with her pants undone and bruises and scratches on her legs.  Medical personnel at Cornell Medical Hospital later determined she was sexually assaulted.

Electric Zoo’s Long Island City-based organizer, Made Event, hired its own doctor and ambulances so “they wouldn’t have to call 911, which would bring the cops,’’ according to published reports. 

The city finally cancelled the event on the last day in the wake of the incidents. 

“Due to serious health risks, the Electric Zoo music festival on Randall’s Island on Sunday, September 1st has been cancelled," the city said in a statement. 

"The City recommended cancellation and the event promoters have agreed.”

Electric Zoo co-founder Mike Bindra, 44, the former manager the drug-plagued Twilo club in Chelsea,  also employed a private ambulance outside the club.   The club was shut down by the city in 2001 after unconscious patrons were found hidden by employees and several fatal ODs.  City officials charged that Twilo used its own private ambulances for overdoses to remain off the NYPD radar. A lawsuit alleged that management hid dozens of sick patrons rather than calling for help.  

After the debacle, Mayor Bloomberg praised Mr. Bindra.

In November SFX Entertainment announced it had acquired Made Event the creators of Electric Zoo Festival.

Mike Bindra (l.) was the general manager of Twilo.
(from l) Mike Bindra,  Aimee Boden - President & Park Administrator of the Randall's Island Park Alliance RIPA -  Bindra's wife - Laura Tigz De Palma, and Anne Wilson,  Director of Planning & Public Funding for RIPA.  Bindra and his wife Laura are the founders of the Electric Zoo.  RIPA reportedly received a $600,000 fee from event organizers.  (Image: NY Daily News)

Elecric Zoo came on the heels of another controversial event held a few months earlier in the same location, Governors Ball which jeopardized public safety and wreaked havoc on the field.  

City officials decided to allow the concert to go on under tropical-storm conditions and  despite a severe weather advisory. 

Twenty-eight acres of public parkland were destroyed,  turned into a mud bowl when more than 100,000 feet combined with torrential rains from Tropical Storm Andrea demolished the giant lawn after the city refused to cancel the concert.

In a rare public airing of differences between the City and the Randall's Island Park Alliance,  Manhattan Parks commissioner  Bill Castro said they regretted not canceling the Governors Ball amid such inclement weather.

"We'll consider it a learned lesson," he told the Wall Street Journal.

Organizers of the Ball however,  along with Aimee Boden,  Executive Director of the Alliance and a Parks Department employee,  disagreed with Mr. Castro.

Apparently the incessant coverage of the impending Tropical Storm Andrea the week leading up to the event was not cause enough for concern, or even a tip off to the possible storm conditions or potential public safety hazzards for the organizers or the city,  to insist the event be cancelled earlier. 

Tom Russell,  a partner in Founders Entertainment,  said heavy rain or extreme mud weren't reasons to halt the festival. 

"There's not much planning you can do for six inches of rain in 36 hours," he said.

The  Randall's Island Park Alliance received  $ 600,000 dollar fee for the event.

The field was closed to the public for months and some subsequent events were canceled. 

Bloomberg LP's annual rental of the public park land for his lavish corporate company party had to be rescheduled later later in the summer. 

The Electric Zoo music festival is lobbying to return Randalls Island after being shut down last year when two college students died of a drug overdose and a host of other incidents. 

Promoters of a Randalls Island electronic music festival — unplugged by the city last year after two drug deaths — are pressing top mayoral aides for a permit to stage the event again, according to the NY Daily News.   

Organizers of the Electric Zoo hired high-powered lobbyist Mike McKeon, whose firm, Mercury Public Affairs, raised $32,520 for Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and inauguration. 

McKeon and another Electric Zoo lobbyist, Patrick Jenkins, recently reached out to key de Blasio aides, contacting Emma Wolfe, director of intergovernmental affairs; Dominic Williams, chief of staff to First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris, and Avi Fink, Wolfe’s deputy, city lobbyist disclosure records show.  

The lobbyists are seeking a Parks Department permit so their client, EZ Festivals LLC, can operate the huge techno-music event at Randalls Island over Labor Day weekend.  Last year, the city shut down the final day of the show after college students Jeffrey Ross, 23, and Olivia Rotondo, 20, died from overdoses of a dangerous drug known as Molly.  

There were four other nonlethal overdoses during last year’s festival, and critics blasted event organizers for lax security that allowed drugs to flow freely.  

“I’m disappointed that the city is even considering the application considering what happened last year,” said Marina Ortiz, of E. Harlem Preservation Inc., whose neighborhood abuts the festival.   

Geoffrey Croft, of the NYC Park Advocates, said that last year the city ignored pleas to shut down the party during a wild electrical storm on the first day of the three-day event.  

“They’re back, and they’ve  not be allowed anywhere near our public parks,” Croft said.  

De Blasio’s press secretary Phil Walzak declined to comment, and Parks Department spokesman Arthur Pincus said the application “is under review.” 

Electric Zoo is already claiming online it has two “expected” dates on Randalls Island in late August. 

Mercury’s Stefan Friedman emphasized Tuesday that organizers have already taken steps “to bolster what was already an extremely robust safety apparatus.” 

Read More:

New York Daily News -  March 25, 2014 - By Greg B. Smith 

New York Daily News - September 9, 2013 - By Barbara Ross  

Wall Street Journal - June 28, 2013 - By Josh Dawsey 

A Walk In The Park - September 4, 2013

1 comment:

  1. Aimee Boden is a gangster that gets TWO salaries at once renting our public parkland, how she can still be there shows how powerless our city council member is, or that she just does not care about our Harlem community