Rock Steady Crew Denied By NY Officials

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 […]

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

paperwork altogether.

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

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

the city.

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

1 News.

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

artist Moby.

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

white-owned business.

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.

New York Parks Department Official Site:

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