The Brooklyn United Marching Band (BU) has performed for New York’s top sports teams, officials and venues — but its young entertainers can’t seem to catch a break on their home turf in Crown Heights.

BU founder Ty Brown said, since March, he’s had to field a rash of new complaints about the band practicing under the LIRR on Atlantic and Kingston Avenues, with the complaints raising new questions for him about gentrification in the area.

Ty Brown. Photo: BU / Supplied

In the past four months the band has been approached three times by NYPD officers, twice by members of the community board and several times by a bothered neighbor, he said. The band practices from 4:30pm to 6:30pm Monday through Thursday.

Now, Brown says he’s frustrated about the way some members of the community are voicing their complaints, especially as the band has nowhere else to go.

“The police are there for criminals and crimes, you don’t call 911 for children playing drums,” he said.

“Drumming is not a crime and your first thought is, “I’m calling 911?’ They are not your personal private bodyguards,” he said.

Cultural sensitivity

Brown said the cultural sensitivity of cops being called on people of color when they could simply have a conversation needs to be addressed in Crown Heights. “If you don’t want to be a Karen, simply find another way,” he said.

A complaint in the past week has come from a neighbor who Brown — who is Black — believed to be “new to the neighborhood and of the other race.”

Brown said the woman had approached his team leaders several times as the kids practiced, and then reached out to him via email. He said he offered his number for a phone conversation but has not yet heard back.

Photo: BU / Supplied

If he does speak to her, he said he wants to explain that the marching band —which has played for the Mayor, the Governor, multiple ticker-tape parades, the Nets, the Giants, the Knicks, AfroPunk, shot a Nike commercial at Brower Park and even recently played for Manolo Blahnik in fancy footwear — has nowhere else to go.

“Ma’am, if I move a block away, what should I do when the next person complains?’ Not to belittle her, just to point out the absurdness of moving to where there is no residents. We’re not from a place where you can move.”

Brown said, while he would love to have a venue for the kids, the organization doesn’t have the money. If anyone is interested in helping him find a venue in Crown Heights, he has a list of requirements ready to go.

He pointed out that the marching band tradition was born in the South, and said BU did well to work with New York’s lack of space and wild weather to create a world-class program. While some may not like the noise, his program was boosting kids from East New York, Brownsville, Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights into successful careers, and keeping some out of trouble.

Photo: BU / Supplied

Brown said many of his kids come from Brooklyn’s housing projects, and have gone on to get into the City’s best schools, as well as being paid staple performers at venues like the Barclays Center.

Last week, a Facebook post he made on the complaints issue garnered hundreds of comments.

“We’re talking about norms of a community,” he said. “We’re not a new group. And just like brownstones, and churches on every corner, a marching band in Crown Heights is normal. What’s reasonable sound? That depends on who you’re talking to.”

“I wish that people wouldn’t stop me while I’m going to the ATM. I wish sanitation was better. I wish fireworks stopped on the 4th. But as a Brooklynite you learn to live it and love it.”

‘Jangled’

Reached by email, the community member who reached out to Brown to voice her concerns said she had hoped the band would move its practice to an area not surrounded by residents.

“I suggested a number of areas also located on the Atlantic Ave underpass, like across from the high school. Or by the BP station, but maybe those are too far from the HQ,” she said.

She said, while she did call 311 several months ago to make a noise complaint, it was not her who contacted the police or the community board.

Photo: BU / Supplied

“When I realized they would be practicing through the summer I came out to speak directly to them. I don’t think complaining about drum noise qualifies as gentrification,” she said.

Asked about those who think the complaint was “Karen-like” behavior, the resident — who said she’d lived there since 2005 — said no one wants to be called names that turn them into a stereotype.

“If I were to try and learn the drums outside of your door for 2 hours every day five days a week, I’m pretty sure you would get jangled,” she said.

Community board response

A woman who answered the Community Board 8 phone line but would not identify herself to BK Reader said the board had never approached Brooklyn United, and that she did not know of the band or where it practiced. She said the board had no further comment and hung up the phone.

The board later contacted BK Reader to advise that it was unaware its Public Safety Chairman Mark Thurton had in fact contacted BU.

“The office did receive a few complaints from residents,” it said. “We referred the issue to the 77th Precinct.”

NYPD’s 77th Precinct has been reached for comment. Community Board 3 has also been reached for comment.

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Make a Donation

BK Reader is brought to you for free daily. Please consider supporting independent local news by making a donation here. Whether it is $1 or $100, no donation is too big or too small!

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

Join the Conversation

54

  1. I LOVE these kids and their glorious music, and I don’t understand the mindset of anyone that wants to hurt them.

    I’ve lived here over a decade and felt lucky every time I heard them play, or sometimes when some of the kids just spontaneously marched in the summer. That was always a good day when that would happen.

    What the hell kind of people want to kill the joy of this place?

  2. Must be something about the drums that awakens her inner self, perhaps scares her primal core. Starting a GoFundMe to buy that neighbor earplugs. Why doesn’t the rumble of the LIRR upset her?

    1. I live across the street from Brower Park and my neighbors and I love to hear the children practice. I see them under the LIRR too and to me it’s dangerous seeing children practicing near to traffic so seeing them in the park is great. They rarely make noise so to read this story is surprising. I’ve lived in crown heights my entire life so it’s great seeing our children involved in the arts. When it comes to the gentrifiers, when they do not understand something the first thing they do is complain. They chose to move to an urban neighborhood so they need to learn to live with it otherwise they need to move! To complain about children is evil! I’d love to see these same complainers put their dogs on leashes by 9am, pick up after them and not have their dogs peeing on the Shirley Chisholm commemoration in the park.

  3. I lived right there Kingston and Atlantic for 30 years and barely heard the train go by. They’re children!!! You’re new to the neighborhood so please stop with the BS. Btw I’m only 44, so I grew up there and had my own kids.

  4. What about loud noise coming from cars all times these are talent kids I see them on Atlantic ave all time

  5. I see so many posts about the unhappy residents who moved to Brooklyn because of the noise. My question is, why did you choose to move to that particular neighborhood in the first place? What did you expect and did you ever stop to think if you could handle living amongst diverse cultures and the lifestyle that comes with it? Now is not that time to make a decision because you should have asked those questions way BEFORE moving to Brooklyn.

  6. Maybe the field at the St John’s Recreation Center complex would be a better place than Atlantic Avenue, under the LIRR? Just saying.

    1. I agree–it’s filthy, air quality is terrible, & they stand & sit in the emergency lane … ambulances & police cars fly down there often, not to mention big rigs & speeding cars on the main road. Someday one of these children will be hit by an emergency vehicle or pulled under a truck accidentally. To you who haven’t been here long (or don’t even live on these blocks), their drumming on Kingston & Atlantic is new. They used to practice more between Nostrand & New York, & with color guard & a band at St. Andrews Playground. Why not go there? Even the other side of Kingston would offer a small curb, cold comfort if one of them gets killed by a car or truck, but at least it’s not meant for emergency vehicles (as the lane they practice in now is).

    2. I just realized. At Kingston and Atlantic is a Public park. The kids are probably practicing there. The article would have you believe that they were practicing in the streets, if you didn’t know the neighborhood. Gentrifiers always want to change the neighborhood to suit them. Leave the kids alone!!!

  7. I generally don’t like hearing music i didnt choose blasted for hours late morning to sundown if I’m lucky, but eight hours a week band oractice that can create opportunities for young people I can say YES to.

  8. If you call 311 for a noise complaint, it is usually the police who will show up. Police coming does not mean necessarily that someone called 911.

  9. ALL THIS IS BECAUSE THEY DECIDE THAT MOST OF BROOKLYN SHOULD BE FOR CRACKS NOT BLACK PEOPLE. PUT PLUGS IB YOUR DAM EARS WHO THE HELL CARES IF IT BOTHERS YOU

    1. “ALL THIS IS BECAUSE THEY DECIDE THAT MOST OF BROOKLYN SHOULD BE FOR *CRACKS*” -Regina Dunlap

      HMMM… what could Regina mean by “cracks” – certainly that wouldn’t be short for “cracker”.. right? Oh, it is?

      So, apparently this comment was allowed by the moderation team here… tell me.. would you be as tolerant of someone saying, IDK… “nigs”?

      Just curious… because it seems like there are several instances thinnly-veiled racism that are apparently A-OK with the moderator here. It’s all very Interesting. 😉

  10. I feel so sad for the person. That is making these complaints. This man is trying to keep these children off of the streets. I my self hope that he can continue with what he loves to do. Sir stay strong and continue to do what your doing God bless. To lady and anybody else that is calling 911. Her is a .

    1. I love the band & the kids too, but what they are doing is LITERALLY putting the kids IN the street–in the MIDDLE of an eight-lane mega-avenue! It’s so dangerous, there must be a better place for them to practice!

  11. Our children have been practicing in marching bands in Kinston Park, St. John’s Park, & Lincoln Terrace for years; I’m not a transplant. I am Brooklyn BORN & BRED; we loved it. It gives the kids something to do. Some people think the world revolves around them. It doesn’t. A fact some people need to learn. You move into a neighborhood & automatically it’s supposed to change because you have arrived? I think not.

  12. Thankful for the band, something still relative, since the gentrification. Leave, get out. We’re tired of looking at you and your dam dogs anyway. How bout picking up your dogs poop. Now thats a call for 311 and the district.

    1. Yes…they ought to be more concerned about picking up their dog poop as required by law. Leave BU alone or collaborate with the group to provide better ‘practice space’. They really have no facilities and it can be dangerous.

  13. I agree with all the post. They have been doing this for years. Now here you come new to the neighborhood and want to change the way things has been done for years. “I Think Not”. My God can’t we have something to hold on too. They want to take everything; those children are not bothering anyone. The LIRR make more nose than that; not to mention all the horns ,& sirens from vehicles. Karen get a life. Leave that marching band alone.

  14. if yu don’t like what we do in brooklyn then move we won’t miss you. everything good when the sitting on every corner drinking and eating taking up parking spaces with all those bike while I pay tickets because I can’t find a place to park excuse the errors

  15. Imagine moving to NYC and complaining about noise lol…go away. Imagine being such a bitter and miserable person that the sound of a little music outside pisses you off that much. Just like simply put your headphones in and close your windows or something. Grow up. Better yet move to a quiet neighborhood/city. You’re literally paying a premium to live here just to complain about the things that make this place what it is….so stupid.

  16. White people are ruining Brooklyn. The lady chooses not to be identified but resonate with the Karen label

  17. The community board president should be replaced. The band should not move to accommodate anyone. Go back to your broker and complain. The kids are a part of the neighborhood and have every right to remain without being harassed.
    Those of us who have families here have adjusted way more than necessary for the comfort of new comers. If they want quiet, they should find another neighborhood perhaps where the rents are different.

  18. Crown Heights the Jewish Celebrations which goes on for days at a time. This has been going on for years. Are law enforcement showing up on them stopping or complaining? My God please leave our children alone this is a wonderful experience for many of them. Reseach before moving in our melting pot. We need to learn to get along and respect each other’s cultural or move to your own island!

  19. Its sad how people move out here and think they can change things to their own liking when in fact these kids have been doing this for years right here at home where they come from the re*ardedness of it all is overwhelming.

  20. Please leave the children alone. If you’re not happy with the noise, move. If you did that, the neighborhood would be safer. Bye Karen.

  21. This term “Karen” is a very offensive racialstereotype and shouldn’t be used except by bigots. I could imagine the outcry if someone of a different ethnicity were being called a name typically associated with that ethnicity. Better to argue the issues and leave the name calling out.

  22. One of the things I love about Brooklyn neighborhoods is the different sounds of them. I used to live on Cortelyou and 22nd, and there were three Kreyol and French speaking churches within a block, and I enjoyed the parades and church processions that often went past my window, and the singing and music and broadcast sermons on Sunday. Now I live on the other side of Coney Island Ave. and the voices of the neighborhood are Urdu, Russian, Spanish, Yiddish, and their celebrations and music and street life. Why else would you want to live in Brooklyn??? I’ve been working from home 50 hours a week since lockdown, and the noise–from a construction project next door, car radios, sirens, fireworks, neighbors’ music and TVs and parties and arguments– you just work through it. Background noise. It’s only a big deal if you decide you don’t like it and then sit and stew about it.

  23. “She said, while she did call 311 several months ago to make a noise complaint, it was not her who contacted the police or the community board.”

    WHAT DOES THIS PERSON THINK A 311 NOISE COMPLAINT DOES? It forwards a notification to your local precinct :face palm:

  24. See, this is why that CRT is not wanted taught in school. The PSA about putting your cell phone in the back of the car with small children, features a beautiful black child strapped in a car seat, sleeping. WHATS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?????????.

  25. Am I the only person who noticed that this guy was bragging about all the things the band has done: played for the Mayor, the Governor, multiple ticker-tape parades, the Nets, the Giants, the Knicks, AfroPunk, a Nike commercial, and played for Manolo Blahnik… and then claimed they have no where to practice?

    So.. what you’re saying is: you used these kids to get these gigs and all this attention for yourself, but you didn’t make sure they had a place to practice?

    It seems ALL of you chose to ignore a fundamental shortcoming so that you could have your chance at complaining about white people… and you wonder why no one takes you seriously (apply this example to all areas of your life and you just have a life-changing epiphany).

    BTW: what kind of annoying characteristics do you think would be personified by someone being a “Shaniqua” or “Jerome”? If you’re mad, too bad, this is the game you wanted to play… which is an especially stupid move when only one of us has a history of falling to pieces when called a name.

    Stop living for the moment, and start planning for the future… you might find life is a lot easier. Seriously, this is getting embarrassing (or should be).

    1. Your disdain for those posting is an attempt for you to unleash your biased perceptions of people of color! We are NOT interested in your view of HOW we should live and WHAT we should believe because YOU have not ‘walked in our shoes. Take several seat and STFU! This is for you…Mr. Urid….

  26. This is absolutely RIDICULOUS, INCONSIDERATE & OUTRIGHT DISGUSTING that some folks are taking it upon themselves to complain about the marching band regarding noise. If they can’t practice under the MTA/LIRR train tracks along Atlantic Av, where can they practice? This marching band has limited financial resources. It’s not like they can move from one place to another to practice. As for the Public Safety Committee Chairperson at Community Board 8 – Brooklyn which covers Crown Heights north of Eastern Pkwy, that particular official needs to be replaced by someone who truly cares about public safety without going overboard with it. Let us all strive to make Crown Heights fairer and better for EVERYONE! Peace & Blessings!!

  27. They will complain about the noise from the extra-curricular activity, then in the same breath complain about crime. These are the same ppl that will tell others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps yet squash any efforts of progress. Smh

  28. The woman says she doesn’t see what complaining about the band has to so with gentrification….thats laughable and a typical response from a Karen. So passive aggressive….smh

  29. The Brooklyn United Marching Band (BU) has performed for New York’s top sports teams, officials, and venues — but its young entertainers can’t seem to catch a break on their home turf in Crown Heights. that the marching band —which has played for the Mayor, the Governor, multiple ticker-tape parades, the Nets, the Giants, the Knicks, AfroPunk, shot a Nike commercial at Brower Park and even recently played for Manolo Blahnik in fancy footwear

    (Why is a band with so much experience on Atlantic ave and Kingston Ave? You should have a private place to practice.)
    This is a quality of life issue. People are now working from home and having zoom meetings at home. Some children are also doing their homework on their computers and they are not able to hear over the drum noise. Just simple things people are not able to do such as sitting down to dinner and watching the news on their television.
    This is not about a Karen.

    .

    1. Have a heart. If you want to know where the money the band does receive go offer to help them with their books. If you are concerned about WFH let the band’s practice time of 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm be your quality of life alarm to STOP WORKING. If you have kids and are worried about dinner why not ask your kids if they would like to join a marching band and make 4 to 6 be your kid’s exercise and real-life socializing time.

    2. Wow. Just wow. And I guess you grew up in the neighborhood and talk to the long-time residents all the time and shop locally and are just a delight for all to be around.

      Nassau county’s got some simply delightful, quiet, tasteful,… um,… “uniform” little spots where you can enjoy the silence. Maybe you could find a “private space” there for you to practice you favorite activities.

    3. Move Victoria! If the children live in the neighborhood then why shouldn’t they be able to practice on Kingston Ave? You people are so annoying and yes you are a “Karen” cause you align yourself with that mindset

  30. If it’s going on for hours, and there are nearby residents, then yeah, the residents have a point. There should be some way the students can practice in a less residential area, so people can sleep and get work done. I’d be pretty angry if my toddler were woken from afternoon nap every day due to a marching band outside his window. Find a compromise.

  31. Comments and a variety of opinions are welcomed. However, please try to keep them respectful. Comments containing profanity or that resort to name-calling will be deleted.

  32. The children deserve a place to practice that is not in the emergency access lane of a busy street! I’ve lived here for more than 20 years, and I am one of many (not just one person) who have reached out to the Community Board and to NYPD Community Affairs (never ever to 911) about this; we are all actively working to try to find the band a place to rehearse that is safe – like the church that they used until just a few months ago, or the park that they have used in the past. I love hearing the marching bands when they pass by – they are talented, and it’s such a wonderful activity for the kids! But playing drums in the street outside of residential buildings for hours every day is not appropriate. Even just moving to the other side of the Kingston might be better: safer since there is no through-lane, and (slightly) more respectful to the community and the residents who have been here for decades.

  33. Marching bands are a Southern and Caribbean tradition. I was able to get a band scholarship at an HBCU. I went to school in NC but I rarely see marching bands here in the city. If a few of these kids are able to secure band scholarships because they have participated in this band, please forgive the noise and let them practice. Practice space has also become problem for the steel pan bands.

  34. Practice space is at an optimum for ANY activity in BROOKLYN. It is mostly hard to find, expensive, competed for and generally unavailable. The Community Board (8) should be working actively to rehouse this community resource for the benefit of the children? Get the local elected officials involved….that is part of their community reinvestment.

  35. I wish I had Karen privileges to complain about noise and actually have the NYPD come! I can’t imagine that the music is unbearable between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. when most people are winding down their remote work day or not even at home yet.
    Every night I have to wear earplugs in a futile attempt to drown out the cursing, screaming and shouting from the sidewalk where adult men are drinking and getting high. This happens from 11 p.m. to 4a.m. when most people are trying to sleep. Calls to 311 elicit no response! But no surprise here, my comfort is not important only Karen’s is!

  36. This is a shame that gentries would try to take control of our neighborhood by reporting kids. The children and the band leaders are doing something positive. What’s your problem Karen and Jack, take your additude back to the suburbs or low lsland and leave our children alone.

  37. The kingston Ave park has long been a practice spot ever since it replaced the Amory that once stood on that spot….before that we the Glad Tidings Community Drum and Bugle Corp, practice on pacific street in front of 1529 which was the church we all belong to…brown stone homes and apartment building up and down the streets neighbors supported our efforts and we flourished to become at a later date, The Carter Cadets.. that park has been used by the Wynn Center PAL and the Carter Cadets which produced many quality men and women into productive citizens of Brooklyn….I would suggest to all who wish to be part of this great borough…get on board and support these youngsters with your dollars and enthusiasm..I came through these ranks and continue to this day as a member of the New York Skyliners Alumni……it’s been a longtime since 1949…..

    1. Great idea, Henry F Lynch Jr! They could move from where they are now – the middle of Atlantic Avenue in the emergency access lane under LIRR – to the park at St Andrew’s Playground. If you live in the neighborhood like I do, you know that the park would be so much better for the children and the community!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *