Volume 75, Number 42 | March 8 -14 2006

Villager photos by Talisman Brolin

Members of the group FIERCE advocated for a later curfew of 4 a.m. for the Hudson River Park at Monday night’s meeting.

Pier 54 proposal for gay youth in park doesn’t float

By Lincoln Anderson

In the ongoing debate about gay youth, Christopher St. and the Hudson River Park, a proposal by Community Board 2’s Waterfront and Parks Committee to close Pier 45 an hour earlier on Friday and Saturday nights, while leaving Pier 54 open later for the gay youth to use was dropped on Monday night in the face of overwhelming opposition from 200 members of FIERCE as well as a lack of electricity on Pier 54.

The proposal by the committee was intended to address complaints by residents and businesses along Christopher St. and neighboring streets about the large numbers of young, gay park users who, in the spring and summer, stream onto the famous gay boulevard and neighborhood after the park, which includes the Christopher St. Pier, closes at its 1 a.m. curfew.

The committee’s plan, as outlined in a resolution, was to close the Christopher St. Pier at midnight, then allow the youth to walk up to the blacktop pier just south of W. 14th St. Under the proposal, Portosan portable toilets, vendors and other amenities were to be provided at this pier, Pier 54, to encourage the youth to make the trek northward. Called a pilot program, the new initiative was to last from May 1 to June 30, at which time it would be reviewed for effectiveness.

Monday night’s meeting saw 200 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth organized by the advocacy group FIERCE turn out. Many of them toted signs calling for an extension of the park’s curfew to 4 a.m. They feel a 4 a.m. curfew will allow for a more gradual trickling out of park users, as opposed to the mass exodus that currently happens, thus disturbing residents less.

On the other hand, local residents were represented by just three members. According to Arthur Schwartz, the committee’s chairperson, resident groups representing Christopher St., Bedford and Barrow Sts. and W. 10th St. had met a few days before to discuss the committee’s proposal and did not want to get into a back and forth with FIERCE.

David Poster, president of the Christopher St. Patrol, a volunteer anticrime patrol, in his remarks at the hearing, said he approved of the committee’s plan, but wished that it would be extended to all seven days of the week in warm weather.

However, Rickke Mananzala, campaign coordinator of FIERCE, said the gay youth did not like the idea of having to march half a mile north, then a quarter of a mile to the subway to get home, and that passing through the Meat Market, with its nightlife scene and drunken revelers, would not be safe for the youth. On the other hand, the Christopher St. Pier is a “safe space” for the L.G.B.T. youth — who often fear gay bashing and discrimination in their own neighborhoods — and so is Christopher St, he said.

Other youth and speakers in support of them said the proposal made them feel like the gay youth were being segregated. Heather Morgan of FIERCE said the youth were effectively being asked to leave the nice pier with lights to go to a “grimy pier” without any lights. The Christopher St. Pier was renovated as part of the new Greenwich Village section of the Hudson River Park, and since opening in spring 2003 has been a magnet for gay and lesbian youth, many of them African-American and Latino.

Two representatives of the Hudson River Park Trust, the state-city agency that is building and operates the park — Julie Nadel, a board of directors member, and Noreen Doyle, the Trust’s vice president — said it would be impossible to get Pier 54 ready by May 1. The pier lacks electric infrastructure since it hasn’t been rebuilt yet, and couldn’t be fixed up in time.

FIERCE, in addition to proposing the 4 a.m. curfew, asked that vendors and amenities be put on Pier 45, not Pier 54. The group is proposing that it would self-police among the gay youth in order to keep down noise and rowdy behavior that might disturb Village residents.

Another proposal the committee considered was to close the Christopher St. Pier at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays but leave the plaza and fountain area by the pier open till 1 a.m. In the end, the committee decided it would not propose changing the curfew during the pilot program, and would back adding vendors and amenities to the Christopher St. Pier — which might keep gay youth from walking back and forth through the Village to get pizza and the like.

Schwartz said “the governor and mayor” would never support extending the curfew to 4 a.m.

Afterwards, Mananzala said they considered the outcome a victory but will keep pushing for a later curfew. He said mobilizing 200 gay youth was no problem and that he planned to bring 500 to the C.B. 2 full board meeting on March 23 at which the full board will vote on the committee’s resolution.

Poster said the residents didn’t come to the meeting because they generally supported the committee’s Pier 54 proposal. Of the final outcome, he said, “To me, what they’ve done is rewarded bad behavior at the expense of the community. They were intimidated by the kids. To me, it’s a disgrace.”

The committee said, after June 30, the board would review how the situation worked and, if necessary, consider any changes to the curfew or other arrangements.

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