Let Pridefest move to Chelsea
On April 27, the Mayors Community Assistance Unit, or C.A.U., unexpectedly denied an application by Heritage of Pride, or HOP, to move Pridefest, its annual L.G.B.T. street fair, from the West Village to Chelsea on Sat., June 23. C.A.U. also refused to let HOP change the fair from its traditional Sunday date to Saturday to free up volunteers to help keep the event safe and orderly.
The Chelsea proposal was to make room for a chunk of the estimated 400,000 people who will descend on New York City for Gay Pride weekend, which culminates with the Pride March on Sun., June 24.
With Pridefests swelling crowds, HOP argues the event has grown unsafe amid the Villages narrow, winding streets after 15 years, a fact the Sixth Police Precinct has confirmed. Chelsea, with wide avenues and a huge L.G.B.T. presence, was the obvious choice for Pridefest, as was separating the fair from Sundays Pride March and Dance by moving it to Saturday.
But C.A.U. denied the request, saying the move constituted a new application, not a transfer of locations on Pridefests old permit, and thus violated a 2003 moratorium on new multiblock street permits. The moratorium was meant to free up police resources and stem the growth of commercial street fairs that dominate the city in warm weather.
HOP, Community Board 4 and local elected officials got word in December that the application would be approved. HOP subsequently gained the support of C.B. 4, the Chelsea Cultural Partnership, more than 150 local businesses and three local precincts to move the street fair to Eighth Ave. between 14th and 23rd Sts., and has done much logistical planning for the move.
Pridefest isnt just any commercial street fair. Its a long-established event that helps organizations and L.G.B.T.-friendly businesses gain access to the L.G.B.T. community. This years more spacious Pridefest was to include spaces for children, youth and seniors and increased space for H.I.V. and S.T.D. screening.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has lobbied Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to reconsider the citys position, to no avail. Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, State Senator Tom Duane and City Comptroller William Thompson have also asked the mayor to reverse C.A.U.s decision.
We call on the mayor to overturn a seemingly arbitrary application of the street-fair moratorium, and to reverse an 11th-hour C.A.U. decision that breaches the good-faith understanding under which an array of community groups, businesses and elected officials have been operating for months.
We also urge the mayor and C.A.U. to reconsider the ironclad street-fair moratorium. Yes, the city needs a well-thought-out approach that meets the needs of neighborhoods, yet while also allowing deserving street fairs to thrive.