DITMAS PARK – The 72nd anniversary of Pakistan’s independence was supposed to be celebrated with an annual mela (street festival) on Coney Island Avenue (between Avenue H and Glenwood Road) on Sunday, August 19. But disputes among the community and multiple permits being filed got it canceled.
The Pakistani American Merchants Association (PAMA) claims that it has been hosting the annual mela for 17 years. This could’ve been the 18th, but PAMA, Nasir Faizi, a public accountant, and the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) decided to file for separate permits celebrating the same independence day, on the same day, time and place.
“It is still our understanding that the sponsors of these applications are in dispute over the ownership of the event and the right to conduct the event in the requested location on the requested date,” a letter sent to PAMA by the Mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office said. “Until a legal conclusion can be reached to the ownership of the event, and the rights to conduct the activity, both applications will remain denied.”
In a press conference on Saturday, PAMA claimed that it has been hosting the August 14 mela for 17 years. Pervaiz Akhter, the president of PAMA, claimed that it was PAMA that started this mela.
“We started this mela… for our kids, the young generation. They used to attend the Indian Parade and there ended up being fights,” he said. “To stop the fights, we said that on the day of the Indian Parade we’ll do a mela on Coney Island Avenue so our kids stay busy here and don’t go there.”
So logically, if PAMA has been filing a permit and hosting the mela for all these years, it should continue, Abdul Aziz Butt, a member of PAMA said.
بروکلین میلہ ؟ جاوید خان، عزیز بٹ اور چوہدر ی پرویز اختر کی مشترکہ پریس کانفرنس
Posted by Mohsin Zaheer on Saturday, August 18, 2018
Faizi told us he filed for a permit a while back. He said he couldn’t speak anymore as he had clients waiting for him.
Disputes over ownership of the mela aren’t something new. In fact, they date back to 1995 when it was PAMA that tried to host the mela after filing a permit when Pakistani National Independence Day Festival Inc. had been doing it since 1990, the Daily News reported.
“We apologize to the Pakistani community,” Butt said. “What happened is all of our faults. We are all responsible.”
Under a Facebook post about the mela, people expressed their anger.
One person said it took her 2/3 hours to drive from New Jersey to Coney Island Avenue yesterday only to find out it was canceled.
Another neighbor said: “They should’ve got together before the cancelation… very embarrassing for the Pakistani community and very sad.”
Now, the mela is postponed until further notice. According to Akhter, “there could be ten more melas after this but the purpose has finished. By changing the date, you’re ending the purpose.”
We reached out to COPO nine times over phone and email but did not hear back. We also reached out to the Mayor’s office, but did not hear back.