By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
More than one million people flocked to Eastern Parkway this Labor Day for the 46th annual West Indian Day Parade to enjoy the colorful floats, costumes, food, music and dancing.
“This is a special time of year because we get to enjoy the culture from the different islands,” said Jennifer, who is from Barbados but has lived in Brooklyn for 20 years. “This year was more special because it's the 100-year anniversary of the Panama Canal, and they did a float for that. It gives each island the opportunity to come together once a year to connect with friends and family to enjoy the food and festivities. We connect and have a wonderful time.”
The parade itself went off without a hitch, but unfortunately its reputation for violence was upheld because there was an early morning shooting along the parade route.
Michael Sampson, 55, was shot to death at about 3:30 a.m. near the parade route, and at least two others were shot, according to Police Commissioner William Bratton. Police charged 26-year-old Derek Goodings with second-degree murder, assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.
More than 4,000 police officers were sent to watch over the parade and were advised to crack down on quality-of-life violations that include playing loud music, outdoor grilling and drinking alcohol in public. Cops were also told to look out for gang activity.
Last year, two people were stabbed to death and police responded to one shooting after the parade. Another person was shot to death in 2011. At a breakfast before the parade, de Blasio called this year's shooting an isolated incident.
"The vast, vast majority have a wonderful time, and only a few individuals get out of line," he said.
De Blasio wore a festive short-sleeve button-down that he said he bought in Jamaica. His wife wore a bright orange dress, and the kids dressed the part as well.
"We’re bringing everyone together here," de Blasio said. "[The Caribbean community] is a growing community, a strong community, a community well represented in our administration, and we're honored by that fact."
The West Indian Day Parade began in 1969 as a celebration of the Caribbean immigrant community in New York City. It has become the largest parade in New York, with more than one million people in attendance each year along the four-mile stretch of Eastern Parkway. There are roughly 600,000 Caribbean-born citizens living in New York City, according to the latest census data. The largest groups are from Jamaica, Guyana and Haiti.
In addition to de Blasio, many other officials attended the parade. Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefly marched, as did his opponent in the Democratic primary, Zephyr Teachout. Cuomo and Teachout briefly crossed paths during the event and shook hands. According to the Daily News, Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu, asked Cuomo about a potential debate and Cuomo didn't respond. Cuomo has refused to debate Teachout before the Sept. 9 primary.
Borough President Eric Adams was this year's grand marshal. Other elected officials, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Council Woman Laurie Cumbo, were in attendance as well.
“We are a city of immigrants. Look around, everyone that is a great New Yorker is an immigrant, the child of an immigrant or the grandchild of an immigrant,” de Blasio said. “Brothers and sisters, I want to thank you for everything you do to make this parade great, but much more importantly, everything you do to make this city strong.”