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Southampton Responds After Governor Calls Concert ‘Gross Violation of Common Sense’

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 20:03
A frame from a video shared by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on social media showed a huge crowd at a concert held Saturday in Bridgehampton in apparent violation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called a drive-in concert held Saturday in Bridgehampton "a gross violation of common sense," while Southampton Town officials responded to a state inquiry into the event by saying they were conducting their own investigation.

"It was grossly disrespectful to fellow New Yorkers. . . . We're taking it very seriously," Governor Cuomo said in a press conference.

"The town is greatly disturbed by reports of what occurred at the event and are investigating this matter and will hold the organizers accountable," James M. Burke, Southampton's attorney, wrote to Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner.

After the Chainsmokers played a show on Saturday attended by hundreds of people -- as many as 500 cars packed with guests, as the event permit allowed -- videos began to emerge on social media showing large groups of partiers gathered together or dancing. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, whose band was an opening act on Saturday, has said guests initially followed the rules, but that it got out of hand later in the evening. Ticket prices started at $250 and topped out at $2,500 per person.

Dr. Zucker on Monday demanded a response within 24 hours from the town regarding what he described as "an obvious public health threat."

The response came shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, with Mr. Burke noting the town was proud of its efforts to combat Covid-19. "Whether it's strictly enforcing state mandates including social distancing guidelines or working with nonprofits to address critical needs such as food insecurities, the Town of Southampton has stepped up and continues to set an example in safeguarding the health of the public here on the East End."

Mr. Burke said the terms of the event permit stated guests were to be restricted to "an assigned personal area adjacent to their vehicle which they could not leave except to use the restroom." Free masks and sanitizer were given out. There were 64 private security guards hired by the event's management, plus "police detail as well as the chief fire marshal and several support staff," he wrote. 

"For most of the evening, the event appeared to be running smoothly. It wasn't until later in the evening that town officials observed possible permit violations occurring in an area immediately in front of the stage. There was no reference to such an area in the permit application and the town did not approve any such gathering space."

Aerial videos documented the event, Mr. Burke said, and he offered them up for viewing in his letter to Dr. Zucker.

The Chainsmokers' event companies, In the Know Experiences and Invisible Noise, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

Governor Cuomo on Tuesday also said the state is looking into violations of public health orders in the village of Southampton, where a recent outdoor festival called "Southampton in the Streets" had mixed reviews.

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