Safe Space Saves Lives Campaign
"Safe Space Saves Lives" Campaign Pier 45 (aka the Christopher Street Pier)
When the Hudson River Park Trust (the private-public partnership that governs the piers on the west-side from Battery Park to 59th Street) fenced off and redeveloped the Christopher Street Pier in 2001, LGBTQ youth who have historically built a safe space on the pier and in the West Village, weren't invited to be part of the neegotiating process or to have a say into how the piers would change.
In 2003, we saw the direct impact of our abscence in this process. The newly redeveloped piers close at 1am, which limit the safe spaces LGBTQ youth have especially when their homes and schools may be unsafe environments. That was just the beginning, the Hudson River Park Trust also charged medical service vans (like Health Outreach to Teens at Callen Lorde) a $25,000 permit fee to park on the pier where the majority of LGBTQ youth are. In addition, the bathrooms close early and the porta poties on the pier are often unsafe and unsanitary.
In 2005, FIERCE launched our Safe Space Saves Lives Campaign to ensure the needs of LGBT youth of color were not forgotten in the wake of the development of the Christopher Street Pier. Our overall demands to Community Board 2, the Hudson River Park Trust, and residents were simple: acknowledge that LGBTQ youth of color are an important part of the West Village community and allow our voices to be heard in the pier development process.
In 2011, the 6th Precinct in the West Village launched their Quality of Life Initiative due to increase in crime and violence on Christopher Street. Townhall meetings were organized by West Village merchants and some residents in which residents and organizations like FIERCE spoke to the violence in the neighborhood. In the past year there has been a lot of blame put on LGBTQ Youth of Color for bringing crime into the neighborhood. Often times at townhall meetings, LGBTQ Youth of Color were being told "they need to behave." FIERCE had been very vocal in saying violence is present in the West Village, but we cannot target any one group for violence occurring and you cannot push LGBTQ Youth of Color out of the West Village. FIERCE began to have conversations with the Waterfront Committee of Community Board 2, St John's Lutheran Church, Boots & Saddles, and Elected Officials such as Speaker Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane to brainstorm safety solutions that does not exclude LGBTQ Youth. FIERCE also met with 6th Precinct Commanding Officer Brandon Del Pozo to express our concerns around the work NYPD has been doing and their interactions with members of the community.
FIERCE members have worked hard over the past two years to gain a seat at the negotiating table over the future of the pier. FIERCE was once seen as a group of unwelcomed outsiders. Through consistent attendance at Community Board 2 meetings and building relationships with LGBTQ organizations and West Village residents, FIERCE members have transformed that image into one of shared commitment; we are seen as strategic young people who have a real voice and stake in shaping public policy. With this hard work has come concrete victories.
FIERCE has successfully:
- Eliminated the $25,000 fee charged to mobile service vans doing outreach on the pier and our campaign platform has been endorsed by 21 LGBTQ organizations across New York City.
- Stopped the proposal to shut down the pier at 10pm.
- Prevented the barricading of LGBT Youth from Christopher Street at 1am.
- Secured free LGBTQ programming on the pier since 2009. FIERCE has launched over 10 events in the past 3 years.
We are still organizing the fight to ensure that the piers are a safe space for LGBTQ youth.
West Village Safe Zones
For 2012, FIERCE will be meeting with groups like Audre Lorde Project to talk about their safe neighborhood work in order to launch safe zones in the West Village. Safe Zones in the West Village would mean that there are businesses and institutions in the West Village that are trained on supporting LGBTQ Youth if they encounter harassment or violence in the neighborhood. LGBTQ Youth would have a place to go to in moments of being unsafe on the streets. FIERCE expressed at a recent Waterfront Committee meeting that we would be doing this work this year and Boots & Saddles, a bar on Christopher Street expressed interest in learning more about the project. If you are interested in working on safe zone planning, please email John with the subject "safe zones."
We are still working to win:
- Affordable food vendors and bathrooms available until closing time.
- A reduction in the police presence on Christopher Street.
- A 24 hour LGBTQ Youth Center near the Christopher Street Pier. Read HERE for more information about how we plan to make this happen.