How’s this for a party invitation? “To remind you, this is an event with some legal and physical risks. If you are uncomfortable with these risks, you should not attend. Really. Once the event begins you cannot leave for two hours. Also, there are no bathrooms.”
The invitation tells you to “Bring a candle. Bring a flashlight (a real one, not your phone). Bring a drink. Do not bring bulky bags or anything you have to carry. Remember: ladders.” When you and your date arrive, you’re told to lower yourself through a hole in the sidewalk. You warily descend further and further into the ground until you arrive at a concert area decorated with graffiti. After two hours of music and dancing, your hosts guide you back to the street and order you to hurry away before the police see you.
Welcome to “Before We Were Ghosts,” an underground (literally!) “guerilla theater celebration” held in an abandoned section of New York’s Second Avenue subway on June 21, the shortest night of the year. About 150 partygoers attended the affair.
The event was organized by Jeff Stark, a secret-events promoter who runs a company called Nonsense NYC, described as “a discriminating resource for independent art, weird events, strange happenings, unique parties, and senseless culture in New York City.”
Photos posted on Gothamist, a New York events website, prompted both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York Police Department to start investigating. “Trespassing in non-public areas … is a serious crime and has the potential to lead to injury,” the MTA said. The party also violated a 2007 law requiring a police permit for any public gathering of 50 or more people.
New Yorkers who attended the underground event seemed to enjoy the experience (though at least one partygoer begged to be allowed to leave before the allotted two hours were up). But the MTA and NYPD are realizing that they may have a new set of headaches to deal with. How do you provide emergency medical services in a dimly lit underground area accessible only by ladder? Candlelight is romantic, parties are fun, and it’s exciting to be part of an exclusive group that shares a secret. But is it a safe way to spend an evening?
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Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of seven books, including Police Talk (Pearson), co-written with the late Mary Mariani. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers. Dr. Reynolds is the police report writing expert for Law Enforcement Today.