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The Everything Guide to Block Parties

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A party in a Bushwick lot on Memorial Day.  

Grilling: Cooking on a charcoal grill is allowed only in designated areas within certain parks—but in those spots, you’re welcome to BYO grill. The 2,771-acre ­Pelham Bay Park has three designated cookout spots, two of which are located seaside along Orchard Beach. In the scenic East River Park,the grilling area is outfitted with asphalt—all the better for staging a faux block party. (Note that a special-events permit is required here.) If you can nab one of the four grills located on the west end of Prospect Park, you’ll have easy access to picnic tables. And for those who are looking to ogle the Unisphere while flipping burgers, there’s Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. For more, visit nycgovparks.org.

The Plaza of parks: Although it doesn't require the typical application process, the High Line (skylightnyc.com) is technically a public park, too, available for you to rent out—assuming you have $25,000 to spare. Here, though, you can bring in pretty much any type of vendor or service you want, so long as it fits in the elevator.

What it costs to break the rules: If your group is just over twenty people and isn’t causing a disturbance, it’s unlikely that any tickets would be issued. But if you do get caught sans permit, the fine is $50. Other fees for skirting the law include $140 for excessive noise or amplified music, $250 for an unapproved structure such as a tent or a gazebo, $250 for failure to comply, $50 for grilling, and $25 for every person caught drinking alcohol.

Spring for a Private Venue:
If all these logistics make your head spin, book a spot via Eventup.com, a free, Airbnb-esque site that lets you sift through restaurants, bars, and even private residences available for events. The Paper Box, for instance, is a Bushwick warehouse with a massive backyard; booking fees start at $150 per hour. And yes, alcohol is permitted.


Pro Tips

Have Enough Seating:
“Make sure people have good spaces for socializing. We like to have some permanent seating like picnic tables but also a bunch of folding chairs around so people can set up where they want.” —Justin Carter, co-founder of Mr. Sunday

Pick a Gimmick:
“Even something as simple as handing out glow sticks or sunglasses with your party’s name stickered across the front of the lens gets people excited.” —Troy Gordon, nightclub promoter for Lavo, Pink Elephant, and Avenue

Just Play the Hits:
“You ever try to kick it to a beautiful female while minimal techno is playing on a hot summer day? Right, me neither—because it’s impossible. Leave the dark tech records for Bar Paradiso in Berlin. Bring your Michael Jackson, Prince, and Stevie Wonder records, and watch your dance floor twerk.” —D.J. Jesse Marco, GQ’s Endless Summer at Ruschmeyer’s, Summer Party on the High Line



Illustrations by Al Murphy  

The Bottom Line About Alcohol

Open-container laws forbid alcohol at a city-sanctioned block party. That leaves two choices: (1) Find a backyard at a private venue where you can serve booze, or (2) hire a refreshments team like Del’s Frozen-Lemonade Truck (from $500; facebook.com/delsnyc). It’s on your guests if they opt to spike their slushies.





Feeding the Masses
It’s not a block party without some grub.


Planning to Hire Food Trucks? Know This ...
Most vendors require around sixteen-by-six-feet of ground space, plus a minimum eleven-foot clearance. Unless you live in a back alley, most blocks can accommodate a food truck; parks, less so. Nearby outlets are a bonus but not a requirement; food trucks can typically provide a generator at no additional charge. As for permits, worry not: A legit truck owner will have the proper Department of Health licenses. And in terms of baseline costs, some trucks don’t charge anything if you can ensure a hungry crowd, while others start around $1,500.

Consider These Meals on Wheels
Miami Food Machine (miamifoodmachinenyc.com), the reincarnation of the now-defunct Bongo Brothers Cuban Food Truck, can be yours for the afternoon, along with Mamu Thai Noodle (facebook.com/MamuThaiNoodle), a Kickstarter-funded Thai street-food cart.

Here, Piggy Piggy
If you can’t picture a block party without a pig roast, forget about hosting it in a Manhattan park. Select outer-borough parks, as well as most streets, are more amenable. Just remember: The ultimate feast demands about eight hours of roasting, picking, and dressing. For all of the perks and none of the legwork, Nick Westervelt, co-owner of Clawhammer Farm, in Lisle, will deliver one of his heritage porkers to your party, then oversee all the niggling details ($20 per person for 30 to 50 guests, $15 per person for 50 to 100 guests, and $10 per person for 100 to 200 guests; $5 extra per person for two sides; clawhammerfarm.com).



Taking Care of Business

Park events require party throwers to rent one toilet for every 150 guests. Local loo renter Mr. John (from $100 per toilet; mrjohn.com) is more conservative, recommending one potty for every 50 people. Getting a permit is an issue only if your commode uses a fire hydrant as a water source—and those are prohibitively expensive anyway.


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