Jelly NYC's Tough Summer Gets Worse: Final Pool Party Axed

Glasser performsat a Pool Party

hide captionA crowd gathers to see the Brooklyn band Glasser perform at a Pool Party, a free concert in East River State Park presented by the promotions company Jelly NYC and the Open Space Alliance of North Brooklyn. A conflict between Jelly and OSA has resulted in the cancellation of this summer's final scheduled concert.

Rachel Goldbrenner

A tough summer for Jelly NYC is going to end a week early. For the past two years, the promoters of the Pool Parties — free concerts at a waterfront park in Brooklyn — have clashed with both the New York State Parks department and the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA), a non-profit organization that, according to its website, "was formed in 2003 to raise funds to expand and improve our local parks."

In a statement released today, OSA slammed the door on the relationship, announcing that the final scheduled Pool Party of the year, set for August 29, would be canceled "due to the continuing unmet financial obligations of the event's promoter, Jelly," according to Adam Perlmutter, an OSA board member. The acts confirmed for the now canceled August 29th show had included Delorean and Dominique Young Unique.

Last week, we reported on Jelly's strained partnership with OSA and the challenges of staging free concerts on a large scale. When I spoke with her, Jelly co-founder Sarah Hooper said, "I kind of hate the Pool Parties now. They make us all really sad when we go on site."

The feeling seems to have been mutual.

OSA's statement goes on to quote Perlmutter as saying, "Over the years, we provided generous financial subsidies and other forms of support for Jelly's concerts in order to keep the Sunday shows free to the public.  But, as a community-based non-profit, OSA can no longer cover both the costs of putting on these events — equipment, labor, and payments to the State for use of their park — and Jelly's substantial debt.  Our primary concern is improving open space in North Brooklyn, and we will not endanger our mission by putting the finances and reputation of our organization at risk by allowing Jelly to slide on its financial obligations." (Read the complete text of OSA's statement below.)

OSA and Jelly's relationship started in 2008, when the non-profit won a bid issued by the New York City Parks department to present concerts at the long-abandoned McCarren Park Pool. Jelly, which had already thrown two summers of free concerts at the pool, continued their series, and the promoter Live Nation contracted with OSA to present ticketed shows at the venue. But after the 2008 season ended, the city closed McCarren Pool for renovations, and OSA helped to move the concerts to East River State Park in the summer of 2009.

According to both parties, that's when Jelly's relationship with OSA started to go south. OSA was reportedly ready to pull the plug on Jelly's involvement after the 2009 Pool Parties, citing safety and security problems, until Senator Charles Schumer insisted that their participation continue. (As The New York Times reported after Schumer stepped in to save the concerts last year, other promoters have expressed interest in presenting concerts at East River State Park.)

OSA's statement says that there were "substantial operational difficulties working with Jelly," but the ostensible basis for the cancellation is money. The statement says that Jelly's fees were 85% lower than those for ticketed concerts, and that they got "free fixed infrastructure, as well as substantially discounted labor for their shows."

In an email, Hooper said this weekend's concert featuring Chromeo, The Suzan and Telephoned would continue as scheduled, and that a statement from Jelly on the canceled concert would be forthcoming. We'll provide an update in this space after Jelly responds.

In last week's report, Hooper admitted that making back the money it cost Jelly to produce the free concerts was a burden: "It's been a tough year for everyone," she said. "This year has been about digging ourselves out of the hole of last year's Pool Parties." As of today, they'll have one fewer chance to dig themselves out of that hole.

Here's the complete statement from OSA:

The Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA), through its programming arm OSA Presents, announced today that payment default by JellyNYC, LLC  (Jelly) forced the cancellation of the August 29th summer concert at East River State Park on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn.   The concerts scheduled for August 14, 19 and 30 will take place as scheduled.

"We are deeply disappointed that the August 29th show has been canceled due to the continuing unmet financial obligations of the event's promoter, Jelly," said Adam Perlmutter, Board member of OSA.  "Over the years, we provided generous financial subsidies and other forms of support for Jelly's concerts in order to keep the Sunday shows free to the public.  But, as a community-based non-profit, OSA can no longer cover both the costs of putting on these events — equipment, labor, and payments to the State for use of their park — and Jelly's substantial debt.  Our primary concern is improving open space in North Brooklyn, and we will not endanger our mission by putting the finances and reputation of our organization at risk by allowing Jelly to slide on its financial obligations."

"We are proud to continue to provide many other forms of programming in our parks this summer, including some of music's biggest acts.  Ultimately, our neighborhood and those who care about open space deserve to see improvements to our parks, as well as free programming in them.  We remain committed to providing free concerts in North Brooklyn in the future, expanding and diversifying offerings to better serve our entire neighborhood."

"The abrupt end to the concert series is certainly unfortunate," said State Parks Regional Director Rachel Gordon.  "Although there will be disappointment, the public should know that we will continue to host concerts in the park, as well as other activities, programming and resources that will benefit the people of Williamsburg and continue to add to its unique landscape."

OSA became formally involved with the North Brooklyn concerts in 2008 when NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation issued a bid to produce the shows at McCarren Park Pool.  When industry professionals did not wish to take the overall financial risk and management responsibility for building the stage and providing the necessary support infrastructure, OSA stepped forward.  OSA produced the McCarren Pool concerts to insure that free community programming, including Jelly's concerts, continued.  Also, with OSA managing the concerts, rather than a private company, proceeds would go directly back into community parks improvements.  The pricing OSA provided to JellyNYC was 85% less than ticketed concerts, in order for the local community to enjoy free programming.

As the Pool moved into reconstruction, OSA sought an alternative venue for the shows. In 2009, OSA, through OSA Presents, negotiated with NY State Parks who graciously allowed the concerts to continue nearby at the East River State Park on the Williamsburg waterfront.  Although there were substantial operational difficulties in working with Jelly, OSA Presents gave Jelly another opportunity in 2010.

This summer, continuing the model at McCarren Pool, OSA Presents hosted ticketed shows to subsidize free programming and raise funds to improve our local parks.   This summer, Jelly was given free fixed infrastructure, as well as substantially discounted labor for its shows.

OSA and OSA Presents expressed regrets to the two artists JellyNYC confirmed with the venue for 8/29, Delorean and Dominique Young Unique.  This summer, OSA Presents hosted the first East coast appearance of Faith No More in more than a decade; new diversity in North Brooklyn programming with Nas/Damien Marley; as well as Weezer, Band of Horses/Grzzly Bear, Primus/Gogol Bordelo, and more.  Still to come in September, it is presenting Modest Mouse 9/14, Pavement 9/19, and Belle & Sebastian 9/30.

The Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA) is a nonprofit that raises funds, links community volunteers and works with our local elected representatives and government agencies to improve and create parks in North Brooklyn.

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