Hazardous air quality puts NYC packed weekend, with Governor’s Ball, Belmont Stakes and Puerto Rican Day Parade, at risk

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A full slate of events including Governors Ball, Belmont Stakes and the Puerto Rican Day Parade are all scheduled for the next few days, attracting millions of people from all over NYC and surrounding areas. But with the fires still raging in Canada. smoke blowing over the city and air quality poor, a huge question remains: What’s happening this weekend?

The smoke situation has thrown New York City’s planned blowout weekend into doubt. Most major events are — at this point — still scheduled to go ahead, though Gov. Kathy Hochul Thursday announced new air quality guidelines that could leave the decision of whether the Belmont Stakes would run to the last minute.

But with the situation hinging on the intensity of the fires, the path of the jet stream and other factors, it’s tough to predict exactly what might come next --- leaving New Yorkers with the possibility that their weekend plans might go up in smoke.

“Some of this stuff is just so unpredictable,” Mayor Eric Adams told reporters at a press conference Thursday morning, emphasizing that he doesn’t plan to order event cancellations or stay-at-home mandates.

“You know, mother nature is going to do what mother nature desires to do,” he added. “And so those who are hosting these events, we’re going to give our recommendations. We haven’t reached the point of mandating, but it’s going to come down to the organizers.”

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality health advisory for the five boroughs through midnight Friday, and on Wednesday night, Mayor Adams advised all New Yorkers who can to remain indoors.

Still, event organizers remain hopeful that the air will clear enough in the coming days to celebrate on the weekend. Air quality across the region is expected to remain poor over the next several days, but meteorologists are expecting a gradual improvement as we move through the weekend.

Governors Ball

The three-day music festival will go ahead as planned, starting Friday and featuring headliners Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo and Odesza. Despite poor air quality forecasted for Friday, organizers said they’re planning to go ahead with the festival as planned, and no performers have yet canceled because of the air quality.

“We’re closely monitoring the air quality with weather experts and are in close contact with city officials,” organizers said Wednesday afternoon in a statement. “At this time, the festival is continuing as planned.”

Belmont Stakes

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new guidelines for horse racing Thursday that could leave the decision of whether the third leg of the Triple Crown will be run Saturday up in the air until the last minute.

The new state guidelines, which are effective immediately, say that if the air quality index rises above 200 at the track, no racing or training at all may be conducted. If the AQI is between 151 and 200, then only horses that pass a respiratory examination by a veterinarian can race.

“As New Yorkers continue to experience unhealthy air quality as a result of Canadian wildfires, we must all work to ensure that animals - including these peak-performance equine athletes - are protected,” Hochul said. “The measures being implemented at tracks across New York State are effective steps to keep all those who participate in the sport safe now and into the future.”

The New York Racing Association canceled racing on Thursday after already calling off morning training that day.

David O’Rourke, president and CEO of NYRA, said that the organization is monitoring the situation. Thursday’s races will be rescheduled for Sunday, and live racing is now supposed to start on Friday. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are currently on sale.

“Based on current forecast models and consultation with our external weather services, we remain optimistic that we will see an improvement in air quality on Friday,” O’Rourke said.

Puerto Rican Day Parade

The annual Puerto Rican Day parade is still lined up for Sunday. The cultural celebration typically draws more than a million people and takes place from 44th Street to 79th Street along Fifth Avenue.

“Everything is going ahead as planned,” Jasmin Espada, a spokesperson for parade said Thursday afternoon.

Mayor Adams was a tad less optimistic about the situation in a press conference on Thursday morning.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen over the weekend. I’m looking forward, if weather permits, to march in the parade,” he said.

Shakespeare in the park

The Public Theater announced the first two performances of its Shakespeare in the Park production of Hamlet on Thursday and Friday will be canceled due to the air quality.

The production is now scheduled to begin on Saturday.

“As the air quality continues to evolve, we are closely monitoring the situation and following guidance from the city and the Parks Department,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Although we rarely make a cancellation call of Free Shakespeare in the Park before the show starts, to ensure the safety of our company, crew, on-site staff, and audience members, a decision was made to cancel today.”

Yankees-Red Sox games

The heated rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox may get a little more smoke-tinged this weekend — as of Thursday afternoon, all three games are moving forward as planned.

A Wednesday doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox was postponed to Thursday, and that’s going ahead as normal, manager Aaron Boone said, despite the lingering poor air quality.

“Had a call with Major League Baseball and said we are a go, so here we go,” Boone said at his pregame press conference. “We’re expecting to play and that’s how we are going forward now. We’ve got two games to play.”

116th Street Festival

The Latino-themed block party draws hundreds of thousands of revelers every year, and this year will be no different, a spokesperson said.

The event began as a lead-up to the Puerto Rican Day Parade and has grown its own celebration of Puerto Rican and Hispanic culture.