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ACTION ALERT: Help FIERCE fight for queer and trans youth’s right to be in the West Village

The quick of it, if you don’t have time to read the back story: New Yorkers who care about queer and trans youth of color should show up on Monday at 6:30pm at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, 3 Clarkson Street, 3rd Floor (7th Ave) for an important action by FIERCE against a plan to barricade Christopher St after the 1am curfew. (Also, while I’m speaking to New Yorkers – y’all need to VOTE on Tuesday! Vote Ferrer!)

Now, the back story: Christopher Street and the nearby Pier in Manhattan have been a gathering point and something of a safe haven for queer and trans folk for time immemorial. The area has served especially as one of the few safe public places for queer and trans youth, many of whom are youth of color and many of whom are homeless or low-income.

Some of the people who can afford to live in the West Village – mostly rich, white folks – have decided that they’d rather not have these queer and trans youth in “their” neighborhood.
These people have been quite active in trying to drive queer and trans youth out of the West Village, Christopher St. and the Piers. They’ve organized in their community board, lobbied for earlier curfews for the area, blocked efforts to create a queer and trans youth drop-in center in the neighborhood, requested and received increased and biased policing of the area, and have generally done all they can to drive the youth out. They’re supported in this by the NYPD, who frequently harass queer and trans youth (no sir, absolutely no profiling going on there. Uh-huh.)

Since 2000, FIERCE!, an organization for queer and trans youth of color, has been one of the few voices raised against these forces – as stated on their website, against the “displacement and criminalization of queer and trans youth of color and homeless youth at the pier and in the Village.” They work hard to make the voices of queer and trans youth of color heard by the powers that be, and they’ve consistently challenged the racist, homophobic, transphobic and classist policies that the rich residents and business owners of the West Village have tried to push through. I’ve had the privilege of working with them on a few actions, and they’re pretty amazing.

Right now, FIERCE is gearing up to face yet another challenge from the residents of the West Village. Now, those “concerned citizens” have managed to come up with some pretty fucked up “solutions” to the “problem” of queer and trans youth of color over the years. At one point, residents requested that Park Enforcement Patrol officers, who are not police officers, be armed in order to deal with the “special population” of the Piers, the queer and trans folks that one woman at a community board meeting dubbed “leftovers.” But what they’re trying to push through now is exceptionally disgusting.

Currently, there’s a 1 am curfew in place on the piers; at that time, the Park Enforcement Patrol clears folks out. The logical route for one being forced to leave the piers is Christopher Street, which is a busy commercial street lined with shops, bars, and restaurants that are open until all hours. However, the residents are apparently put off by the queer youth who walk down Christopher and other nearby residential streets as they leave. FIERCE and other groups have advocated for a later curfew of 4 am, which would allow pier-goers to leave in a more gradual, interspersed manner, thereby reducing noice and crowding.

But that’s not good enough for the residents. Their solution?

They want to install metal barricades at the entrances to Christopher Street and other residential streets, blocking access to those leaving the piers and corraling them along the West Side Highway, either north to 14th St or south to Houston St. Advocates of this plan claim that no discrimination or profiling will be applied when directing people away from the barricades. However, as a friend and FIERCE organizer said to me a few nights ago, it’s highly doubtful that the wealthy white person walking their dog in the park who claims to live just a block away will be turned away. As FIERCE stated in a recent action alert, “only ‘some’ people will be allowed down Christopher Street – and they have no answers, other than discrimination, to tell the difference between us and the people who pay for property in the West Village.”

This Monday, there’s going to be a meeting of the Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee in the West Village where the plan will be discussed. FIERCE is planning to show up in force to protest this unacceptable move by the West Village residents.

FIERCE needs the help of its allies to demonstrate disapproval of this plan! If you’re a New Yorker who thinks that this plan is total b.s., show up at 6:30pm at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, 3 Clarkson Street, 3rd Floor (7th Ave). Hear FIERCE’s plan and help save seats inside so that as many FIERCE members and allies as possible can pack the meeting and make their voices heard. And if you’re a queer or trans youth, contact FIERCE at 646.336.6789 x108 to find out how you can join up and fight back, too.

For more info on this fiasco, check out this article from the Villager: Gate may be closed to gays in park’s crowd-control plan. A choice bit from this article that demonstrates the attitudes of these folks against queer youth:

Asked what the gay youth would do once they leave the park at 14th and Houston Streets, [David Poster, president of the Christopher Street Patrol], noting there are many subway lines on 14th Street, said: “Let them go home. Let them go where they want. The idea that they have to be on Christopher Street is a fallacy. Maybe they’ll find something much more positive than being with prostitutes down there. Maybe it’ll help them.”

Yes, I’m sure that this guy is really concerned about or knows a damn thing about helping queer and trans youth. Clearly, making it more difficult and less safe for them to be in one of the few safe spaces they have in this city is a great way to help them. Yeah. Right.