Registered sex offender arrested for L train groping

Suspect Gian Verdelli

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

This Friday, police arrested a man with multiple previous convictions for sex crimes in connection with a subway groping that took place on the L train near First Avenue earlier this week. The suspect was identified as 67-year-old Gian Verdelli, who the Daily News reported was just released from prison in May after he was convicted of another incident of sex abuse on the subway. 

The 37-year-old victim was on an Eighth Avenue-bound L train traveling from Bedford to First Avenue on Wednesday, June 26 around 8:50 a.m. when Verdelli allegedly put his hand under her dress and groped her. She and Verdelli both got off the train at First Avenue, where the victim took a photo of Verdelli with her phone before he fled the station. 

Verdelli is a level 2 sex offender and lives in a shelter on Wards Island, according to the New York State sex offender registry, and he was arrested there on Friday. 

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Stuyvesant Town artist recreates ‘Lavender Scare’ for PBS documentary

Illustration of historic scene by John Sicoransa

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town resident John Sicoransa hadn’t heard of the Lavender Scare when film editor Bruce Shaw contacted him about creating drawings for a documentary on the topic, but he immediately knew he wanted to get involved once he learned more about the troubling period in American history.

The Lavender Scare, the subject of a new PBS documentary by the same name that premiered last Tuesday, ran concurrently with the Red Scare, a period following World War II when Senator Joseph McCarthy stoked fears about an increase in communism. The Lavender Scare began in the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower declared homosexuals a security risk, in part because of a perception that they could be easily blackmailed. Federal workers were fired or forced to resign and others were denied jobs in the first place when the government suspected them of being gay.

McCarthy and attorney Roy Cohn, who later died of AIDS and was accused of being a closeted gay man, were responsible for many of the firings, which were supported by J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI.

“Once I heard the story outline and saw existing footage, I was all in,” Sicoransa said of the film.

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First Avenue florist retiring

Pete Tsoumas is retiring on Friday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

After 65 years in business, the colorful floral stand tucked in a corner at the Brooklyn-bound exit of the First Avenue L is selling its last bouquet on Friday. Current owner Pete Tsoumas has been operating the stand for almost 50 years, having taken it over from his grandfather and uncle after running three other stores in the city, and now he finally gets to retire. 

“If you told me I’d be here for 48 years, I’d say you’re crazy,” Tsoumas said. 

Tsoumas said that the construction on the station was a challenge but the main reason he’s closing up shop is his health and he’s looking forward to spending time with his family. 

“I need a rest. ‘If you don’t close on Friday, you won’t make it (to your appointment) in September,’” he said his doctor told him at a previous appointment, indicating that his stem-cutting arm gives him trouble.

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Local Pride events

The New York City Pride March will take place on Sunday, June 30. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising this Friday, Pride Month is reaching its peak this week. This is also the first year that WorldPride will be held in New York. The event, which was first held in Rome in 2000, promotes LGBTQ issues on an international level through parades and other cultural activities and has previously been held in Jerusalem, London, Toronto and Madrid. As the month comes to an end on Sunday, there are a number of local events scheduled for residents to celebrate. 

NYC Pride March

Perhaps the most well-known Pride event in the city is the annual Pride March. As in recent years, the march travels along Fifth Avenue but the route changed last year to include a new memorial dedicated to New York City men, women and children who have died of AIDS on Seventh Avenue at West 12th Street. The march starts at noon on Sunday, June 30 at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue just north of Madison Square Park and will head south. The route will then go west at Eighth Street towards the Stonewall National Monument in the West Village, then will head north again on Seventh Avenue, traveling past the NYC AIDS Memorial Park at West 12th Street and ending at West 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue. 

Dueling Drag Queens

This performance of dueling drag queens is part of the Union Square Partnership’s Citi Summer in the Square that takes place every Thursday through August 8. Every week features a different dueling act on the South Plaza main stage in Union Square and during Pride Week on Thursday, June 27 at 5 p.m. will feature Screaming Queens, a boutique entertainment company providing drag queens, impersonators, colorful theme characters and offbeat cabaret artists. Audience members can cheer for their favorite drag queen to win the title of “Miss Citi Summer in the Square 2019.”

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Middle Collegiate combines Juneteenth and Pride celebration

Middle Collegiate Church’s Rev. Jacqui Lewis with Shan Gilani, husband of late activist Gary Ranker and Ranker’s son Kevin (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Middle Collegiate Church combined civil rights and Pride for an all-inclusive Juneteenth celebration last week. Senior minister Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis said that the event for Pride month was consciously held on Juneteenth. The holiday, celebrated on June 19, commemorates the emancipation of all slaves from the former Confederate states in 1865.

“We wanted to do something Juneteenth-related because it doesn’t get nearly enough recognition,” Lewis said. “We’ve been celebrating Pride 24/7/365 at Middle for decades and we’re super excited to combine these two liberation movements. This was a way to celebrate these two things together.”

The event, which honored civil rights activist Ruby Sales and gay rights activist Gary Ranker, who died earlier this year, also served as the launch of the photo exhibit, “Queer Faith,” which was also featured at the Union Theological Seminary in East Harlem.

Sales was at the event and spoke about realizing that she was a lesbian, coming out and joining the gay rights movement while fighting for civil rights.

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