By Sabina Mollot
State Senator Brad Hoylman has a message for the organizers of New York’s Santacon event: Go to Jersey. It’s just not cool enough for New York.
He made his view known after this year’s Christmas-themed crawl took place on Saturday, the same day as a march against police violence.
On Monday morning, when asked if he thought the event, which has developed a practically Grinch-like reputation for its past incidents of public urination and just general obnoxiousness, had become more subdued, he said “no.”
He added, “and that’s why I’m suggesting Jersey City next year.”
That said, Hoylman acknowledged that there were fewer troubling incidents this year than last year, when several Santas engaged in a boozy beat-down on Third Avenue and 16th Street. But he believed that rather than being due to any conscious changes in behavior, it’s that the popularity of the event is waning, as well as other factors.
“Last year it was the snow, and this year it was the Millions March. It was really in stark contrast to what Santacon’s about in terms of seriousness,” said Hoylman. “But I’d say also that Santacon has jumped the shark. It isn’t as cool or as fun as it used to be. I’m sure that has an impact too.”
After much back and forth between the event’s shadowy organizers and wary community leaders, this year’s Santacon took place in Manhattan, mostly in the 30s on the West and East Side. There were also a couple of stray participating venues in the East Village and Flatiron.
This was also after the organizers had promised to do more to rein in any rowdy participants by laying out some rules and communicating more with precincts and community boards.
So far, said Hoylman, it’s hard to predict what the impact has been. His own neighborhood, Greenwich Village, though not along the official event route, still saw its share of stumbling Saint Nicks.
“I witnessed some inebriated people in our streets in Santa costumes,” he said. “It’s a difficult thing to explain to your four-year-old.”
He added that he’d also been following the various social media accounts that chronicled the instances of Santas passed out or peeing.
A suggestion he’d made to the group previously was to keep the crawl family-friendly and booze-free. In response, he was told by one of the organization’s representatives that this would be taken under consideration. But Hoylman’s not holding his breath. “It’s largely about binge drinking; it’s a big pub crawl at the end of the day.”
Noting how the organizers have retained civil rights lawyer Norm Siegel and that they’ve also formed a 501C3 charity nonprofit, Hoylman said, “They’re trying to establish some sort of control and authority over the event. They claim to contribute to charity. As a 501C3, they’re going to be held to that. I’d like to see how much they in fact raised.”
In response, an event spokesperson, “Santa Claus,” on Monday told Town & Village the total amount wouldn’t be known until the organization’s accounting had been completed. As for just how many people participated this year, the spokesperson said, via email, that’s there’s no way to get an accurate count. An NYPD spokesperson, when asked the same question, said police wouldn’t give out that kind of information. He added that there were no Santa-related arrests that he was aware of.
The Satacon rep also answered “yes” when asked if organizers felt the event had become less raucous as a result of community outreach.
“We are residents of those same communities,” said the rep, “and this year we reached out to many community and civic groups. We continue to develop our dialogue with these groups. We encourage constructive feedback to our email address firstname.lastname@example.org.”