Charges of discrimination were hurled by organizers attempting to plan a Russian festival in Staten Island earlier this month. The event, which has since been canceled, was met with stiff opposition from locals, who according to DNAinfo, did not want to see the event happen.
Anna Pekerman, CEO of Russian radio station Danu Radio, based here in Sheepshead Bay, was hoping to run the event on September 9 in the Midland Beach parking lot, but withdrew her request in the face of what she called discrimination. Pressure against the event stems from a similar 2007 Russian-based festival that upset neighbors due to unruly crowd behavior brought on by illegal drinking.
Pekerman, who had nothing to do with the 2007 event, isn’t buying it.
“They said that there were problems there, they had a lot of complaints based [on] that event. I’m very upset that they’re lumping all Russian people together,” she said.
According to the Parks Department, who is in charge of approving large public events, they had worked closely with Pekerman, outlining the rules and regulations, but “the event organizer did not want to comply with these rules and decided to cancel the event. Parks did not deny any permits,” said Parks Department spokeswoman Tara Kiernen.
Pekerman wasn’t convinced that the issue was a bureaucratic one, but rather pressure from the local community to resist another Russian-themed celebration. In recent years, Staten Islanders also voted down a planned Russian Community Center to be built on an empty lot.
The Staten Island Advance quoted local resident Joanne Bennetii at a 2009 civic meeting to discuss the proposed construction, “This is just going to be another damn Russian thing.”
Even with the requisite funding in place, and support from the local politicians, the project couldn’t overcome the community’s opposition.