Adrian Kulesza, Staff Photographer

East Coastin’ 2021, a major motorcycling event, came last Saturday to the streets of New Haven, despite calls from city officials to cancel the stunts.

Roughly 5,000 people from the New England area came at noon to the Hole in the Wall club on Forbes Avenue in the Annex neighborhood to watch motorcyclists execute stunts. At around 3:30 pm, the cyclists moved to Waterfront Street to continue with the motorcycle tricks. By around 4:45 pm, the New Haven Police Department arrived to break up the event. East Coastin’ came after a Wednesday press conference that called for the organizers, Sal Fusco and Gabe Canestri Jr. to cancel the event. After the dispersion, Canestri was arrested for inciting a riot and second-degree breach of peace. 

“We had said there would be no stunt show today,” Renee Dominguez, Acting NHPD Chief, said during a press conference following the event. “No street would be taken over. It’s too dangerous.”

Dominguez added that the event was not broken up until the stunters moved onto Waterfront Street. Another arrest was also made against a motorcyclist for reckless driving. The NHPD also seized four bikes and issued six infractions for general misconduct such as public drinking. In total, the NHPD deployed 150 officers to disperse the event. 

In the Wednesday press conference at 830 Woodward Ave., New Haven mayor Justin Elicker stated that the event was not permitted by the city and would “not be tolerated” because of the danger it poses to the safety and quality of life of New Haven residents. He added that the police deployed to the event could be of better use in other situations. 

Alder Carmen Rodriguez, who represents the district the event took place in, added that the sound of revving engines, as well as disruptive riding, causes issues in the neighborhood and also the city as a whole. She said the organizers should feel “shame” for continuing with the event despite not having a legal permit.

At a separate impromptu press conference on Wednesday, event organizers addressed the city leader’s comments. Fusco said that they did not want to cause chaos but wanted motorcycle fans to have a “great time.” Both organizers added that they attempted to work with the city by asking what was necessary to make the event legal, but that they did not receive a clear answer — an assertion that Elicker and Dominguez have objected to.

Fusco added that even if they canceled the event, motorcyclists and spectators would still have been eager to attend.

On Monday morning, city officials held another press conference about the motorcycle incident.

Dominguez and Elicker announced that the city will take further action against those deemed responsible for the event’s impact. The NHPD plans to bill East Coastin’ organizers for the cost of officers’ overtime hours. Additionally, properties that allowed attendees to park without permits will also face a city response.

“We will be doing, internally, an after-action meeting to look at the ways we can ensure that we hold all people associated with the event accountable,” Elicker said. “And ensure that we continue to work to make sure that this event doesn’t impact the city of New Haven.”

At Monday’s press conference, Elicker and Dominguez also fielded questions from reporters about the city’s management of violent crime. Dominguez talked about a report on notable acts of violence in the city by revealing there have been 55 incidents of gunfire in New Haven since Sept. 14. Nevertheless, Dominguez maintains that violent crime has fallen over the past two weeks thanks to new strategies implemented by the NHPD. Elicker pointed to the city’s Street Outreach Workers and Youth Connect programs as examples of crime-reducing initiatives.

Elicker also provided updates on the city’s recent request to the Board of Alders for increased surveillance funding to combat violent crime. Funding would be used to expand the use of cameras and ShotSpotter technology throughout the city, which would cost approximately $3.8 million and $1.8 million, respectively. Elicker expressed his optimism that the public would support the use of cameras.

“Cameras don’t lie,” Elicker said. “When I raise, ‘What can we do about the violence in the community?’, community members are bringing up even more cameras… So I think, generally, there’s a bit of an attitude shift.”

As the conference came to a close, the mayor described developments in the city’s Crisis Response Team and plans to incentivize police officer recruitment with signing bonuses.

According to Dominguez, 10,000 people participated in the East Coastin’ 2020 event.

Razel Suansing is a staff reporter and producer for the City, YTV, and Magazine desks. She covers cops and courts, specifically state criminal justice reform efforts, the New Haven Police Department, and the Yale Police Department. Originally from Manila, Philippines, she is a first-year in Davenport College, majoring in Global Affairs.
Megan Vaz is the former city desk editor. She previously covered Yale-New Haven relations and Yale unions, additionally serving as an audience desk staffer.