NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For months, we have been told to avoid large gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19, but there have been dozens of illegal parties across New York City since the start of the pandemic.
Video posted to Instagram shows more than 100 people in Queens jammed together, dancing and drinking with no masks in sight.
It’s just one of hundreds of what appear to be illegal parties taking place in the city during the pandemic.
There was a similar scene on Halloween with partiers packed in, dressed in costumes.
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The New York City Sheriff’s office has busted at least 45 illegal parties since March, including one in a Prince Street penthouse in SoHo.
“Every Thursday and Friday night, there’s a bouncer. He takes money here, kids go upstairs, no masks,” said SoHo resident James Bruni.
In Queens, one Corona resident says crowds gather in a backyard tent near his home.
“There has been a lot of music,” he said. “From around 6 p.m. until sometimes 6, 7, 8 in the morning, it’s incessant.”
Kristina Alaniesse is a veteran club promoter in Manhattan. She says the underground parties happen in every borough, at times with hundreds in attendance.
She has no doubt the parties are contributing to the spread of COVID.
“The people I know who are going don’t care,” she told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon. “They just want to party.”
How are people finding out about the parties? It all comes down to social media and who you know.
A quick search online brings up dozens of ads.
“There’s a lot of WhatsApp groups, so group chats with party people,” Alaniesse said. “Instagram and text message and mailing lists.”
The locations are kept secret until right before they happen.
Videos show how promoters are getting creative, utilizing warehouses, penthouses, basements and even office buildings.
Alaniesse says landlords are playing ball because many are in financial trouble.
But for all those taking part, many longtime industry insiders are steering clear, like DJ Lauren Flax. She’s been asked to play the raves and has refused.
Flax says many of the people hosting bashes right now are new to the scene, looking to cash in.
“I can’t believe that people could just be this flippant about human life just for a night out,” she said.
CBS2 spoke off-camera to several people involved in the illegal party scene who want to remain anonymous. They say their livelihoods were cut because of COVID and until more government aid is available, the parties will carry on.
Those caught breaking COVID-19 guidelines can face civil and criminal summonses.
The New York City Sheriff’s Office is primarily in charge of enforcement. When CBS2 asked why so many are going unpoliced, both the mayor and sheriff’s offices say the city’s resources are spread thin right now.
Many New Yorkers aren’t satisfied with that reasoning. They want more crackdowns and harsher punishments, adding current fines haven’t been a deterrent.
Until that happens, they worry the parties and the rapid spread of COVID will continue.
When pressed about its role in enforcement, the NYPD said its goal is not to issue summonses but to encourage social distancing. Meanwhile, the governor’s office did not respond to our request for comment.
Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.
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