Less than one year after Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed
July 26, 2003 "Rock Steady Crew Day" in New York City, the NYC Parks
Department has denied the World Famous Rock Steady Crew access to Bronx public
parks for their 27th Anniversary, which is scheduled for July 22-25th, 2004.
The Commissioner Adrian Benepe's office oversees
the NYC Parks Department, and it was the Bronx Borough Commissioner, Dorothy
Lewandowski, that denied Rock Steady Crew access to Bronx parks, stating that
"the community does not want people like Fat Joe up there."
RSC President, Richard "Crazy Legs"
Colón, went through the proper steps to fulfill the requirements for
application (see links below for reference), although various situations cropped
up in the Commissioner's office to delay conversations, including losing the
A meeting was set up by the Bronx Borough Commissioner's
office with Alfredo Perez, Director Of Special Events for Van Cortlandt Park,
on June 18th, 2004. After Rock Steady Crew met every possible obstacle and issue
raised by the Parks Department, the Commissioner's office alluded to everything
being okay with the application on June 18th. On June 22nd a letter was issued
to Crazy Legs citing that the proposed location sought "is not suitable
because it is in a specialized area" and that "the event would interfere
unreasonably with the enjoyment of the park by other users."
2004 marks the 30th Anniversary of Hip Hop, a
culture that has brought together millions of people transcending race, gender,
nationality, and any perceived social boundaries that traditionally have divided
people. The Rock Steady Crew originated in Bronx, New York in 1977, and now
has members all over the world. Since 1991, the RSC has organized an annual
four-day series of events that culminates on the last weekend of July. These
annual events were established to honor members of Rock Steady Crew who passed
away, and it has grown to honor all significant contributions to the culture
of Hip Hop by individuals who appear to have been overlooked.
To date, Rock Steady Crew has not taken contributions
from alcohol or tobacco companies for the sponsorship of events. Moreover, the
RSC Anniversary celebration has been incident-free over the course of its13-year
history. The daylong free outdoor concert attracts over 8,000 people, bringing
together young people and families from all over the world who come to New York
specifically to attend the activities.
"I feel that it's a slap in the face to
the community as well as to artists that have spread a culture that was born
in the Bronx throughout the world," said Crazy Legs of the decision. "It's
a shame that a small group of people have the power to say and do what ever
they please behind closed doors when it comes to making decisions within communities
that they do not even live in. For the NYC Parks Department to tell us that
our community does not want artists who come from within our community to perform
is a blatant disregard for any expression that we have created for ourselves
through hard times and a need to be heard. I would like to know why the Parks
Department office never called the 6th Precinct or Hudson River Park Trust (Pier
54) to find out whether we were capable of putting on an event of this size
with out any major problems. Our history speaks for itself when it comes to
throwing events, and they never looked into it."
Television and radio stations utilize public
parks on a regular basis to throw free concerts and events, attracting thousands
of people each time. It is a travesty that a group of people that has given
so much to their community would be denied use of the parks with no solid basis.
This proclamation from the Mayor's Office in 2003 (read at http://www.tygereye.net/rsc27)
lists a number of reasons why the Rock Steady Crew is a valuable asset to the
City Of New York, however the impact of their art and work extends far beyond
In addition to receiving NYC honors from Mayor
Bloomberg in 2003, Rock Steady Crew received the Key to the City of Las Vegas
on February 21, 2004 for their work with the Las Vegas Arts District. Las Vegas
Councilwoman Janet Moncrief said of the award: "The Rock Steady Crew has
influenced popular culture for three decades. They are aware of their influence
on youth and are committed to philanthropy."
Crazy Legs and Rock Steady regularly host events
at The Point community center in the South Bronx, donating proceeds to the center
for their youth programs. It was his dance program at The Point for young people
that garnered him the "New Yorker of the Week" Award from New York
Each year at the RSC Anniversary, sponsorship
proceeds from the Celebrity Basketball Tournament go to the Greenwich Village
Youth Council, and Crazy Legs donates anniversary concert tickets to the Robinhood
Foundation so that disadvantaged children can attend.
The Rock Steady Crew performed for the Reagan
inauguration in 1980. They were the first B-boys to perform at Carnegie Hall
on Jan 19, 2001. The crew also performed in a tribute to the Nicholas Brothers
at the Kennedy Center Honors, the Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth
II, the Boston Ballet Gala, and the Lincoln Center Serious Fun! series.
Crazy Legs has been featured in such films as
Flashdance, Beat Street, Wild Style and Style Wars as well as various television
programs and music videos. He has appeared in television commercials and print
ads for major corporations including Coke, Sprite, Verizon Wireless, Sean John,
Averix and Nike. He participated in the Peabody Award-winning documentary Dance
in America: Everybody Dance Now, the Great Performances 20th Anniversary Special,
and co-produced the documentary movie The Freshest Kids. He performed in the
Off-Broadway play Jam On the Groove, and taught actor John Leguizamo to B-boy
for his Tony Award-nominated play Freak. He has choreographed music videos for
Wyclef Jean (nominated for an MTV Award for Best Choreography) and multi-platinum
Crazy Legs won the 1991 Bessie Award for Choreography
and the 1994 Hip Hop Pioneer Award from The Source magazine. He was inducted
into the Hip Hop Hall Of Fame in 2002, was presented with the Source Youth Foundation
2003 Image Award, the 2003 AARTS Award from the Bay Shore Schools Arts Education
Fund, and was also honored as the National Godfather of the 2003 Jersey City
Puerto Rican Day Parade. In 2004 he was awarded a Source Image Award for being
a positive influence on the community.
Each year the Rock Steady Crew Anniversary brings
people from all over the world to New York City for the 4-day event, and later
to Los Angeles for a 2-day event, and many celebrities come to join in the fun.
Artists and actors including Wyclef Jean, Outkast, Common, Madonna, Annabella
Sciorra, Nelly Furtado, HBO's Dean Winters, Showtime's Darrin Henson, Wesley
Snipes, and actress/director Penny Marshall have celebrated with Rock Steady.
"Our event is a positive family-oriented
event which attracts people, young and old, that crave the very essence of what
makes Hip Hop a true American art form," explained Crazy Legs. "Our
people need an alternative to what has been portrayed by the commercial world
as Hip Hop. This is what is real and what's right in Hip Hop."
While the Anniversary will go on as planned,
the Rock Steady Crew will be forced to raise extra sponsorship money to rent
space for their free event. It is truly unfortunate that the NYC Parks Department
will shut out grass roots organizations like Rock Steady in favor of larger
Please see the following links if you are interested
in contacting the NYC Parks Department about their decision to keep Bronx natives
out of their own neighborhood.
Bio on Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe
Parks Department Special Event Guidelines
Types of Events the NYC Parks Department allows
Events approved by the Parks Department for Bronx
Parks for Summer 2004
2002 Discrimination suit filed by Attorney General
against New York City Parks Department for discrimination under previous Commissioner.
See item #18
Class Action Lawsuit still pending