Yale Daily News

The daredevil motorcycle tricks at the annual EastCoastin’ stunt show will not happen in New Haven this year. 

After the 2021 EastCoastin’ motorcycle stunt show was illegally held near the New Haven waterfront and cost the city an estimated $92,000 in overtime pay, the city has sued the organizers to recoup the costs. 

“It may take some time to do so, but we will hold you accountable,” Mayor Justin Elicker said in a press conference last Tuesday.

Last September, EastCoastin’ 2021 welcomed over 5,000 people to New Haven’s industrial waterfront, temporarily blocking Waterfront Street. Revving their engines, the participants performed motorcycle stunts, the New Haven Independent reported. The paper estimated that 150 city police officers were present at the event, along with public works employees helping with dump trucks and barricades.

Mayor Elicker said at the press conference that the organizers did not request a special permit before the event. The police department told the public that the event was canceled, but the organizers still went ahead with the event. 

The organizers, Gabriel Canestri and Salvatore Fusco, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

The civil suit, which was brought on Friday, hopes to regain the over $80,000 in police overtime costs and additional $12,000 in costs that other city departments incurred from the event. 

“[Fusco and Canestri’s] goal was to profit off of this entire action,” Blake Sullivan, assistant corporation counsel to the City of New Haven, said at the press conference. “We want to see to it that that doesn’t happen again, and that those costs are recouped.”

Typically, people who organize special events in New Haven must pay for costs of police protection and other permit and license fees. By not securing a special event permit, the civil suit said that Fusco and Canestri sought to evade the associated costs, while still profiting from corporate sponsorships and advertising at the event, as well as from monetary contributions by attendees. 

Plex Audio, a manufacturer of plug-and-play music systems for Harley Davidson motorcycles, confirmed to the News that they were at the September 2021 stunt show. 

Community or Chaos?

People’s views on the Sept. 24, 2021 EastCoastin’ stunt show vary widely; some call it extremely dangerous, while others say it’s the best event that’s happened to New Haven in years. 

The show has been held since 2016 in New Haven, the New Haven Independent reported. It grew from 300 to 600 to 1,500 participants, with 3,000 expected this year, according to organizer Gabe Canestri Jr., a High School in the Community grad.

But in 2021, the stunt show was a “come at your own risk” event. 

“We tried everything from pulling permits, to paying for road closures and even renting a local spot for a venue,” @Eastcoastincrew posted on Instagram on Aug. 27, 2021 — approximately a month in advance of the show to their 67,700 followers. “All were shot down and pretty much shushed out the door by the Mayors Office.”

Mayor Elicker said at a press conference the Wednesday before the stunt show that the show was not permitted and would not be tolerated. 

Ward 6 Alder Carmen Rodriguez said at the same press conference that chaos erupts when EastCoastin’ takes place.

“Shame on these two young men,” she said. 

But some EastCoastin’ attendees told a different story. 

“I’ve been to multiple years and [EastCoastin’ has] gotten bigger and more enjoyable every year,” said Ryan Callahan, a 2021 attendee. “It’s a safe environment of like-minded people. It’s disappointing that they come after our community.”

He described the Eastcoastin’ community with four words — unconditional loyalty and reliability. 

“We don’t change who we are for anybody,” Callahan said. “We are only as strong of a community as the person next to us.”

New Haven police chief Karl Jacobson said that the event was “extremely, extremely dangerous.”

After the stunt show, @Eastcoastincrew posted to Instagram on Oct. 1, 2021, thanking attendees for coming out to the “cancelled event” that “went as smooth as it could have.”

Multiple Actions: Strings of city litigation  

The new civil suit is not the only step New Haven has taken in trying to clamp down on illegal street speeding and stunt tricks.

During the press conference last Tuesday, Mayor Elicker said that the city has taken multiple actions to hold the EastCoastin’ organizers accountable and ensure that the type of event does not happen again. 

City prosecutors charged Canestri with one misdemeanor count of second-degree breach of peace and one misdemeanor count of inciting a riot in fall 2021. 

Those charges were later dropped — under the condition that Canestri not ​“solicit, organize, hold or participate in any motorcycle event” in the city over the next three years ​unless properly permitted. If not, he could go to prison. 

The city had taken action prior to EastCoastin’ 2021. 

State police had arrested Canestri in April 2017 on 15 counts of reckless endangerment, 23 counts of reckless driving and 24 counts of operating a motorcycle without facial protection. He pled guilty to misdemeanor crimes. 

Jacobson said at the Friday press conference that according to Canestri, Eastcoastin’ 2022 will not occur. 

“I’d like to believe him, but we’re prepared, we’re looking at everything that would normally go out [in publicizing the event],” Jacobson said. 

EastCoastin’ 2021 was held on Sept. 24, 2021 at locations including 153 Forbes Ave.

Charlotte Hughes reports on climate and environmental issues in New Haven. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she is a freshman in Branford College majoring in English.