East End Citizens, Party Organizers Clash Over Music Volume

Feb 5, 2009 – More than 100 people gathered Thursday in the cafeteria of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School to discuss nearby loud Sunday night parties sponsored by the Waseen Dominic organization.
The meeting was organized by St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Barbara Petersen to gather information so that government officials can respond to the situation. The panel of officials included Petersen, Police Chief Rodney Querrard, Zone 3 Lt. Joseph Gumbs, and commissioner of V.I. Parks and Recreation St. Clair Williams. Petersen said that the officials present would evaluate the comments from the meeting and work to resolve the problem.
"We are here to assess if this event has become a burden on the community," Petersen said. "We have to determine if it will continue, if it will continue here or if we will give it another venue."
Waseen Dominic members feel that the organization has conceded to neighbors' complaints by shutting down the parties at 10 instead of 11 p.m. as the V.I. Code specifies. However, neighbors still object to the loudness of the parties, which one woman said shakes things in her house.
"This noise … as soon as it starts to play I close all my doors and windows go in my bedroom," Norma Smith, who lives in Estate Nazareth, told the group. "The noise really bothers me and this has been going on for years."
Police have tried to mediate the situation between the party organizers and the neighbors of the facility.
"We have had a number of meeting referencing this same situation," Querrard said. Querrard said he had personally inspected the grounds and found that the parties were shutting down at 10 p.m.
Neighbors who live in the vicinity of the party grounds, which are adjacent to Kean High School, have complained and sent a petition about the volume of the functions to police, the office of the administrator, Parks and Recreation, as well as other government offices.
Waseen means roots and Dominic stands for Dominica, according to Waseen Dominic's president, Paul Alexander, who said that it is an organization for people with ties to Dominica.
The parties sometimes have a band and sometimes a DJ. Alexander said that on occasion there is a $3 to $5 fee for entry inside the gate. He said the amount depends on what the band is charging.
"The fee is also to maintain the park," Alexander said, referring to the government owned land that the group uses under a permit. "The land belongs to Parks and Recreation."
Alexander said that his group had improved the park by clearing the area of weeds and putting up a fence.
Alexander said it was not the group's intention to antagonize the neighbors. In fact the group has provided computers, a sewing machine and scholarship money to Kean High School.
"We are there for well over 20 years," Alexander said. "We are a law abiding people. We are good citizens and will remain good citizens.
Permits are applied for weekly by the group, which submits them to the VIPD.
Sidney Flax, who lives in Estate Nazareth, noted a number of violations of the law at the site, including erection of a bandstand and food services.
Flax said that on Labor Day the party went so late that he approached Alexander and said, "Let us stop fighting, all these years you didn't make the noise this loud or this late, but he [Alexander] keeps telling us you have to learn to accept the things you can't change. "
"The noise is what has brought this to a head," Andrea King of the Red Hook Alliance. "The noise levels have been excessive."
The police have received instruments to measure decibels, but they had not yet received the training needed to validate the results gained from the equipment, Querrard said.
King also told the assemblage that the land being used for the parties is owned publicly and questioned the legitimacy of food stand structures built there.
"This land belongs to government and that means it belongs to us," King said, "The days of construction of shanty villages for parties is long over. I have to get permits when I want to build a walkway."
Barbara Trotman, who lives in Estate Nazareth, explained that to get away from the volume of noise from the party she had to put pillows over her head.
"My appeal," Trotman said, "is to please shut the noise down. I can't take it any more. It is unbearable. I need peace and comfort, that is all I have to say."
Waseen Dominic supporters took exception to calling music from the parties 'noise'.
Jesse Richards took exception to complaints by "… people who are against Caribbean people getting together and referring to our music as noise."
John Lethun concurred, saying that he felt the complaints were not really about the noise. Gumbs blames the distortion of the sound on topography. The further the sound from the party traveled, the less it sounded like music and the more it sounded like noise, Gumbs said.
"A lot of rock groups use bigger speakers," one gentleman, who declined to give his name, said. He went on to say that there was a similar problem on St. John with rock 'n' roll bands playing too loud – they make just as much noise as the Caribbean groups and nobody complains.
He said that if the parties were shut down on the noise basis it could have far-reaching consequences.
"If they are going to stop the music, then they are going to have to stop the carnival," he said.

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