Volume 75, Number 4 | June 15- 21, 2005

Gay Pride
A special Villager supplement

L.G.B.T. youth feel at ease within their pier group

Interviews and photos by Cathy Jedruczek

Christopher St. and Pier 45, known as the Christopher St. Pier, have long been a symbol of gay rights. On any given afternoon and through the evening hours, a culturally diverse group of gays and lesbians, many of them young, come to the pier — which was rebuilt a few years ago as part of the Hudson River Park — to hang out and socialize. They say they can be themselves on the pier, something they often can’t do at home or in their own neighborhoods. The steamy June weather has made the concrete pier — which boasts a real grass lawn in its middle — the perfect place to kick back. Last week, The Villager asked some of the pier denizens about why they like to come to the Village, the recent stepped-up “fondling enforcement” and how they perceive and feel they are perceived by local residents.

Dwayne Smith, a.k.a. Massapequa; high school student; lives in the Bronx

V: Why do you like coming to the Village?
D.S.: It is a place for me to act how I want to without feeling persecuted or being judged. I’ve been hanging out here for almost a year.

V: What do you do when you’re down here on Christopher St. in the park?
D.S.: I pretty much hang out with my friends. When I’m dressed like a girl I come down here and pose and walk. I meet people and I make friends.

V: What’s been your best experience in the Village?
D.S.: The best experience, I don’t know…. I think it’s just meeting new people and being able to act like we want to act without the feeling of being judged.

V: Do you have a worst experience?
D.S.: Yes, It was a ticket [from a Park Enforcement Patrol officer] for indecent exposure, because one of my outfits was too revealing.

V: What did you wear or forget to wear?
D.S.: (laughing) I had on a trench coat with a very short shirt on and a thong. And… I took the trench coat off and just walked around. It was around the middle of the night, but everybody was around and all the lights were on. If I didn’t have my ID, I would have gotten arrested. That’s actually my best and worst experience. All the attention I got after this, wow! I became famous down here!

V: Where do you go to hang out in winter?
D.S.: What do you mean? I still come here for my little rendezvous.

V: The Park Enforcement Patrol officers are cracking down on same-sex fondling and touching in Hudson River Park. Has this changed your behavior? Are you self-conscious now?
D.S.: What?! This is not going to change my behavior!

V: How do you think Village residents feel about you hanging out here?
D.S.: I don’t think they like it, I know they don’t like it. A lot of us are very, very loud, especially after midnight.

V: Do you think that’s disrespectful to people who live here?
D.S.: I think it is. I might curb my behavior, but I can’t control other people.

V: Are you going to the Gay Pride parade?
D.S.: Yes, I am dressing as a drag queen. Massapequa is coming out!


Luys Sierra; go-go dancer; lives in Brooklyn

V: Why do you like coming to the Village?
L.S.: I just do it to come, gather my thoughts, catch up with some things. I come, relax and have a good time.

V: Do you practice some of your dance moves here?
L.S.: Sometimes…in a group, with my friends….

V: How often do you dome here?
L.S.: I come here once in a while. When I feel like I have too many things on my mind. I started coming here when I was 14. Now I am 21.

V: What’s been your best experience so far in the Village?
L.S.: Well, it has been great. I met people, famous people. I bumped into many famous singers and dancers while walking on the street.

V: What do you think the residents think about you hanging out here?
L.S.: I don’t have anything against anybody. Everybody has their own way of living and doing things. You have to talk about a specific person to understand why they come here. Most of these kids come out here because they can’t get the attention in their house or they cannot be open around where they live. They come there and they let themselves out.

V: You must have heard about the PEP officers cracking down on same-sex fondling. Has that made you self-conscious?

L.S.: I’ve heard of it. I am not self-conscious. I just got married two months ago. I am very happy. I’m free to express myself, but not to the degree where I want to get people’s attention. That’s why I have a home.

V: Do you think this will always be a gay meeting place?
L.S.: It could be, but people come here for different reasons.


David Black; waiter; lives in Spanish Harlem

V: Why do you like coming to the Village?
D.B.: I’ve been coming to the Village since I was 14. I come here because it gives me a sense of peace. It allows me to be with myself.

V: What’s been your best experience in the Village so far?
D.B.: I think it’s observing how the Village has changed, the remodeling of the pier to make it more enjoyable not just for the gay community, but for people in general.

V: Do you have a worst experience?
D.B.: I think it would be the negativity that I pick up from some of the people around here.

V: How do you think the residents feel about you hanging out here?
D.B.: Some of them are very accepting and some of them are not. You can’t tell someone to change because you don’t like what they are doing.
V: Have you heard of the PEP officers cracking down on same-sex fondling in Hudson River Park? Has this altered your behavior?

D.B.: I have read about this… It is O.K. to be intimate, but intimate to a point. When it starts getting explicit, especially when there are other people around you, I think something should be said. I am not saying you can’t be intimate, but there has to be a line that you don’t cross when you’re in public. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gay couple or a straight couple.

V: Do you think Christopher St. will always be a place where gay community meets?
D.B.: It is always going to be that way because it’s our safe haven, it is our escape before you go back to the real world.


Andres Restrepo (left); waiter; lives in Woodside, Queens
Alejandro Calwo; doorman in Tribeca; lives in Kew Gardens, Queens

V: Why do you like coming to the Village?
A.R.: I just like to hang out with my best friend. When I come to the Village it’s always with him. I feel comfortable here. In Woodside, there are not that many gay people.

V: What’s been your best experience so far?
A.R.: Gay Pride parade. It is nice because there are gay people, straight people and even families who go to see the parade.

V: What’s your worst experience in the Village?
A.R.: My best friend [Alejandro] is underage so we can’t go to bars to hang out.

V: What do you think the residents of the Village think about you hanging out here on the pier?
A.R.: When they moved in here, they knew it was a gay area so….
A.C.: We have some crazy people and sometimes they’re going to extremes.

V: Have your heard of the PEP officers cracking down on same-sex touching in the park? Has this changed your behavior?
A.C.: Some people do act inappropriately, like those girls over there being on top of each other. Kissing is O.K., but if you are going to do something else you should do it at home. It is O.K. being gay, but I don’t have to show in public how much I enjoy my way of life.


Robyn Singh; high school student; aspiring professional basketball player; lives in Harlem

V: Why do you like coming to the Village?
R.S.: Not a lot of people discriminate down here. We have fun. It’s a big family down here.

V: What do you do when you are on the pier?
R.S.: I pick up girls and you know… (laughing) We come down here and we play board games.

V: What’s been your best experience in the Village?
R.S.: Gay Pride parade.

V: What do you do when you go there?
R.S.: I pick up girls (laughing). I get to know a lot of people. I like to be in the crowd.

V: What do you think the residents of this area have to say about you hanging out here?
R.S.: I think sometimes they may not appreciate it. Because sometimes people, they see us as different. Some people don’t mind. It’s like a mind game. Whatever they feel, they’re gonna go by.

V: The PEP officers have been cracking down on same-sex fondling. Has this affected your behavior?
R.S.: I am aware of it. I’ll see it and I think that’s a little immature and very inappropriate. There’s limit to certain things. I don’t do it. It didn’t affect me that much.

V: Do you think Christopher St. will always remain a gay hangout?
R.S.: It’s been so for a very long time, but eventually I don’t think it will. Things will die out eventually.

V: Are there other places where you like to hang out?
R.S.: Lower East Side and Uptown, where I live. But I still like to hang out here.


Andrea (Paru) Acosta; student at John Adams High School; works at IHOP; lives in Ozone Park, Queens

V: Why do you like coming do the Village?
A.A.: I come to the Village because I have a lot of friends that are gay and we come out here because we could be ourselves without people judging us. We have fun out here.

V: What do you do when you come here?
A.A.: We walk up from West 4 and we come to the pier. We bug out, we have a radio, we start dancing, we double dash, we have water fights. We break rules out here sometimes, but we don’t care.

V: The Parks officials don’t say anything.
A.A.: No they don’t.

V: What’s been your best experience in the Village?
A.A.: The Gay Pride parade and Halloween Parade.

V: What’s been your worst?
A.A.: I never had a worse experience. Unless…sometimes there are fights here. One guy hit a girl and he’s a big guy. We took that seriously.

V: The PEP officers are cracking down on same-sex fondling in the park. Has this changed the way you act around here?
A.A.: Around here most people get away with it. We are playing around, but we do it all the time. [Parks officials] don’t say anything. They look for stuff like, if we are smoking weed, if we have fights and they look for weapons.

V: Do you think this will always be a gay hangout?
A.A.: Yes, it’s legendary.


Ciara (Slinky); beautician; lives in Harlem

V: What do you do when you come to the Village?
C: I meet different people, get to know them and become cool with them. There are a lot of guys and girls and they’re multicultural.

V: What’s been your best experience so far in the Village?
C: Meeting my friend [Andrea].

V: What’s been your worst experience?
C: When I brought my ex-boyfriend out here, he ended up turning gay.

V: What do you think of the PEP officers cracking down on same-sex fondling? Has it changed your behavior?
C: No. We don’t do nothing wrong.

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