Interviews and photos
By Rita Wu
27, lives in East New York,
works at Fresh Direct
Why do you like coming to the pier?
It’s the people. It’s the life. Doesn’t even matter if it’s lesbians, gays. It’s good vibes, basically.
How does your neighborhood treat you?
I just go to work and go home. I don’t chill outside, because it’s dangerous the neighborhood I’m in.
Does it have to do with your sexuality?
No, I don’t even think my sexuality has anything to do with it because from what I’ve learned a lot of people appreciate it. It’s 2009, like c’mon, you don’t have cable? You don’t watch “The L Word”? You know what it is already. That’s just how it is. I’m not afraid. My neighborhood is good besides the crime.
How long have you been coming here?
Wow. I’ve been coming to the pier since my junior high school years. That’s what? Since ’96.
How often do you come here?
When I’m off of work. When I get the time. When the weather’s nice, like now. Close to summer.
Do you notice a difference from before and coming here now?
I believe it’s the same way. You can’t really say the pier is actually for gay people. It’s for everyone. It’s more casual now. Less violence. It’s real nice.
What do you do while you’re here?
I converse with my peers. If I’m single, I try to mingle.
Is it easy to meet people here?
I mean, basically, if you could converse. If you could start a good conversation, then of course you can meet anyone. This is the reading level I’m on. [Takes out “A - Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers” from her bag.] He [Jeffrey Dahmer] wanted someone to be around for companionship. That’s why I’m not judgmental, because you can’t judge someone. Basically, a lot of people have a lot of problems, a lot of issues from their childhood. Especially minorities; they can’t go to psychologists and different stuff like that to be evaluated at a young age. So, therefore, I understand what he went through. He was a cannibal. He was just looking for companionship.
Are there other neighborhoods you like to hang out in?
I mean I don’t really hang out because of my age. I don’t hang out on the block. I’m a minority and the way that I dress I will be stopped by the D’s — detectives, decoys. Plus I blow marijuana. I don’t care if it’s on tape. We need to legalize it, Obama. But, anyway, this is what I do. If I come to the Village I’m going to Henrietta Hudson’s. It’s a bar, different races. You have to be 23 or older. It’s a good crowd. It’s the type of crowd I like to hang around.
Do you see regulars out here?
With the heterosexuals, no. On the weekdays, a lot of the high school kids be out here like after school.
What about residents complaining about the noise the gay youth make when they leave the pier after the park’s 1 a.m. curfew?
Oh yeah, you pay thousands of dollars in rent, you don’t want all that noise. It’s like living next to a train station. Why would you want that? I’d curse their ass out.
What was your best experience here?
Finding a job at Crazy Nanny’s; now it’s Luke and Leroy’s. This was around 2003. That was the best, to be just working in the limelight. I met a lot of stars. I met Queen Latifah. I met an artist by the name of Monifah. I saw a lot of NBA, WNBA stars. Different things like that.
The worst experience?
The worst experience I can say, maybe Pride, fights breaking out.
Do you think this will always be a gay meeting spot?
A lot of gay kids I have talked to say that they come here because they feel they aren’t accepted in their neighborhoods. And that’s true. I have one little girl here who’s younger than me who told me she looks up to me, and I told her don’t say that. But in all reality, I think for me, bringing her out here opened her to a whole new concept just to see so many of us in this light and how we can come down here and be just free about it and don’t have to worry about anybody with gestures and making comments and frowning, you know. I believe that this is a good place for us. And I hope it stays here.
Is there anything about the pier you would change?
The rodents. There are big rats that come out of that grass over there. And more stores that are convenient, instead of us walking all the way up there to the store.
30, lives in Harlem, works as a production associate
at a TV network
31, lives in Harlem, works as an actor
Joan Henry and Marsha Mills
Both live in Brooklyn
Why do you like coming to the Village?
D.B.: I like it ’cause it’s calming. It’s not like New York. I like to bring the dog, usually. I just think it’s peaceful. I like to come and feel comforta ble and see other gay people. And it’s just feels free sometimes to be myself and the pier, too. I just like to come and catch the rays of the sun and walk with the breeze. Makes me feel like I’m in California or something, gives me the best of both worlds. You have the water and you have the people and you walk back to the Village and its congested and, you know, it’s fun.
The neighborhood has been changing in recent years, with all the new high-priced condos along the waterfront, especially. How is that changing things in your view?
D.B.: I would hope that the people that do come down here, the people that move here, ’cause I know that this is like a jewel to be right here on the water, that they respect the community and they understand that this is a haven for a lot of people, you know, especially implants coming from different parts of the city, different cities and states that aren’t comfortable being who they are, can come down here and be comfortable and, you know, just be free.
A few years ago, the Hudson River Park Trust considered putting up gates to keep all the gay youth leaving the park at 1 a.m. from exiting onto Christopher St. What do you think of that?
D.B.: I think the beauty of New York is that everybody, even the rich and the poor, everybody lives amongst one another. Everybody is able to thrive in the city whether they’re gay or straight, black or white, Asian. That’s the beauty of the city, it’s a tossed salad. ... Go get a mansion and put gates around that. Don’t come to the city and try to put up gates.
C.J.: This is a public place. Let it just be what it is. Don’t take things away from people. You got money, move Upstate somewhere, get your nice little land, get your acres, make your own little pond if that’s what you want, make life somewhere else. Don’t take what’s been established, what’s been a sort of haven for people, a safe place for the young kids to come and be themselves, don’t take that away, ’cause you know there’s nowhere else for people to go. Or if you want to find a balance, come out here and talk to people. Find an agreement. Work with the community.
D.B.: It’s like Chi Chiz bar. I think it’s been a relic in the community. I think they’ve been trying to close it for years. But initially, through ignorance, I didn’t like to come to the bar ’cause it was a hole in the wall. But then I started going and met the people there, really good people that have been coming there for years. It’s like they, you know, this is a part of their life. They like this bar, they come, the drinks are cheap, they play good music, they shoot pool in there, and it’s like a neighborhood hangout for these older gay guys. I feel like you said, that if these people actually came out and met some of these kids.
C.J.: Talk to people. You cannot judge a book by its cover.
D.B.: Yeah, they’re up there on their 17th-floor condos judging.
C.J.: I mean we all have our own little, I guess, snap judgments of people, but you never really know who people are till you actually go and talk to them. Like we just met these two women [Henry and Mills] out here today.
D.B.: If we talk to each other we’ll find out that we are a lot more similar than we are different.
M.M.: It’s like what you said with these condos. Soon it’s gonna change. Soon it’s just gonna be people with money over here.
D.B.: They are gonna try to make it private.
C.J.: Yeah, and they’re not gonna wanna be amongst us. It’s like, “We’re amongst the commoners. We don’t like that.” That’s the truth.
J.H.: If they take it over we have to find a gay town — and when we go to that town, they come and buy it out again.
M.M.: We have to create another gay town ’cause remember, they create this for us and now this is changing. Look at Brooklyn, it’s changing. They’re gonna make it another mini-Manhattan. So maybe we’ll find a place in Brooklyn, and then maybe they’ll come and take that away, too.
How did you hear about the Christopher St. Pier?
J.H.: Oh man. I don’t know. One day I just passed and I saw over here and I walked and “Oh, gay people. Ooh, thank God.” I said, “Yeah, my people,” and that’s how I started to come here.
M.M.: You know what they should do? They should put a nice monument of two men or two women up here in the middle to let them know that this is gay land right here. ... Everybody comes here and they know that this is their place. All they see is the monument and they know that this is home. I feel that they should do that. I’ve always thought that. It could be done if everybody wants it. We could sign a...
M.M.: Also, if you’re curious too, you can come down here to see if your heart really beats for the same or the opposite. But you know, it takes one look to know if you really like someone the same, you know, that’s all it takes.
J.H.: Gay thing is not a game or a tested thing. You gay, you gay — that’s the way I see it. I was 5 years old and I knew I was gay.
M.M.: Five years old!
C.J.: I knew I was gay at that age, too.
J.H.: Excuse me, but I’m gay. I was born gay.
M.M.: I don’t even remember at 5. I don’t remember 5 years old.
J.H.: I remember. You know what? I was in love with my teacher and I was like, “Oh, my God,” you know.