Preserving a Way of Life for New York’s Youth
November 14, 2005
To The Editor:
Congratulations to the young advocates from FIERCE! (“Christopher St. Late Night Flap,” by Duncan Osborne, Nov. 10-16). I am impressed by their organization and support their cause.
A few years ago, I was in the Village late and decided to head down to the piers with my lover. I hadn’t been down there at night since I was much younger—I’m 42 now. I wanted to listen to some good music and watch the Ball Kids vogueing. To my surprise, we encountered throngs of young gay kids heading east on Christopher Street—away from the piers. I asked what was up and someone informed me about the new park hours. My first thought was—where are all these gay, black and Latino youths going to hang out safely after 1 a.m.? Apparently, no one else thought much about the subject, until now.
The question remains – where are these kids supposed to go? For the past 30 years, young, gay, poor blacks and Latinos have come to the Village, specifically the piers, to escape the projects of Manhattan and the outer boroughs. The piers were a legendary place where, if just for the night, taunting, fear of gay bashing, and poverty could be left behind—replaced by the fabulousness of walking runway, drag, and vogueing.
There was rarely any trouble then. Rivalries and animosity were settled on the cement in fantastic vogueing competitions that entertained participants and spectators alike, and kept everyone out of trouble. The increasing crime trends are more probably related to high unemployment than the young gay community in the Village.
Urban renewal is a good thing. The Hudson River Park is beautiful and a great improvement to Manhattan’s West Side. I understand the importance of low crime and high property values. However, just as we protect historic buildings and sacred burial grounds, we must also consider tradition and impact when deciding to build. Asking these young people to leave the Park at 1 a.m. is like asking the businesses in Times Square to turn off the lights at midnight! When you live in Manhattan, you must accept that you are not going to sleep to the sound of crickets!
I stand with the Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment in their proposal to extend park hours until 4 a.m. Community Board 2 would be wise to support this solution. It would eliminate the need for hundreds of young people to leave through the narrow corridor of Christopher Street, and at the same time, restore a great tradition while providing a safe haven for gay youth who are otherwise marginalized, ignored, and displaced.
Gary “Miss Gary” Sullivan
New York City
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