More than 200 people stood shoulder to shoulder shouting as two men quarreled in the middle of a warehouse in the Bronx. Social media showed that some people were stuck over the barricades, raising their necks for a better view. When one man hit the other, the crowd erupted in a thunderous roar.
Amateur fighting would have been illegal before the pandemic, but with coronavirus cases rising in the city, it has become a dangerous underground event.
Sheriff’s MPs broke up the unlicensed fighting club, known as “Rumble in the Bronx”, around 11:15 pm on Saturday. Authorities said many of the crowd inside were drinking and smoking hookahs and not wearing masks.
The club’s captain, Michael J. Roman, 32, and nine others were charged with illegal gathering, violating the health and alcohol law and participating in a prohibited combat sport. All of them were also fined $ 15,000.
Just days ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has tightened restrictions in the state in an effort to control the spread of the virus. Private indoor and outdoor gatherings statewide are now limited to 10, and gyms, bars and restaurants should close every evening at 10 p.m.
“Bars, restaurants, gyms and home parties, it basically comes from here,” said Mr. Cuomo on a conference call with reporters last week.
Hours before the Fight Club disintegration, the MPs also disbanded a party in Brooklyn with about 200 guests and another in Manhattan with more than 200 people.
Kevin O’Hanlon, owner of Rogue Space, which hosted the event in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, expressed regret in a phone interview on Sunday.
He said, “We are in the process of having a positive impact in society, and that is not something that we are proud of at all.”
Event organizers did not respond to requests for comment or could not be contacted immediately on Sunday.
For several months, New York City, which was an early epicenter of the Coronavirus, has managed to control the virus to a large extent. Although cases and hospitalizations are lower than in the spring, officials said they will look at more restrictions to stem the second wave.
On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter that there were 937 new cases of the virus and that 117 people had been hospitalized. The seven-day average of positive test results was 2.57 percent, slightly lower than last week.
Speaking at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn on Sunday, Mr. de Blasio reminded New Yorkers that with the holidays approaching, the virus – which has killed more than 24,000 of the city’s residents – remains a very serious threat.
“We are challenged again, but we cannot have amnesia,” said Mr. de Blasio. “A second wave is haunting us, but we can stop it.”
Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Como discouraged travel and gatherings during the holidays.
A spokesperson for the mayor thanked the mayor’s office, but said New Yorkers would have to do their part.
“Nobody is going to beat Covid-19 for us,” spokesman Mitch Schwartz said. “We have to do it ourselves – and it starts with remembering that our choices matter.”
It is not clear if there has been an increase in the number of illegal gatherings held in the city since the start of the epidemic. Sheriff Joseph Fossetto said that such events have existed for a long time.
Since July, his office has shut down at least one big illegal event every weekend. He said the epidemic had exacerbated the problem.
Inform his office about the gatherings from the Internet and through advice.
At 3:15 am on a Saturday morning, authorities found 180 people attending a party at Hearts of Love on Liberty Street in Brooklyn. The authorities said that many did not have face coverings and were drinking and smoking hookah.
Three men, including a security guard, were charged with violating an emergency executive order. The guard, Julio Soto, 35, has also been accused of storing alcoholic beverages without a license.
Two hours earlier in Manhattan, the mayor’s office closed a party on West 26th Street in Rouge Space. Representatives watched tables, chairs and velvet ropes being unloaded from a truck on Friday evening. Officials said that at 1 am, they found 205 guests crammed into space without masks.
Ahmed Maklour, 36, Mourouj, and three others were charged with violating the governor’s emergency order and alcohol violations.
It was 3,000 square feet, said O’Hanlon, the owner of the place. He said that guests were asked to wear masks in the building and that he reminded people to wear their masks properly.
The gathering was supposed to be limited to 50 people and smoking was not allowed, Mr. O’Hanlon said, but “then everything collapsed.”
Mr. O’Hanlon said he has received many requests for social events recently, but has been reluctant to agree. He said business has been slow and acknowledged the financial pressure he and other place owners have been feeling since the start of the pandemic.
But he said that due to the raid, he did not make any money from Hadath.