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Hindu paraders pass safely despite SW boro concerns

An estimated 50,000 people came to the event, undeterred by cold weather and a new restriction limiting the use of traditional powder and liquid in the celebration, said Ramesh Kalicharran, the parade's co-founder. He said more than 24 floats were created to ferry people along 133rd Street on the way to Smokey Park, where celebrants were addressed by such dignitaries as the former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

"It is one of the biggest parades (in the city)," Kalicharran said during a phone interview Monday. "There was no incident. Nothing abnormal happened."

Southwestern Queens residents and community leaders had expressed safety concerns in the weeks leading up to the parade because celebrants throw traditional powders and liquids that some worried could be used as a cover for potentially lethal substances such as anthrax.

Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10, said meetings with police and parade officials before the parade improved security efforts the day of the celebration.

"It appears that things were well under control," Braton said. "The Police Department was very good about controlling the use of the powder and the liquid."

Kalicharran said he met with police officials two days before the parade to talk about safety measures for the Phagwah celebration. These included limits on the use of traditional powders and putting two police officers with each float to make sure no one jumped on or off the traveling vehicles.

Once the parade reached Smokey Park at about 3 p.m., Kalicharran said, the festivities continued with theatrical skits, songs and dances. A portion of the parade route had to be altered because a mid-afternoon fire forced fire officials to fill a portion of the city's streets.

"The parade went very successfully," Kalicharran said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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