Bea Arthur residence for homeless youths opens on E. 13th St.

The Bea Arthur Residence for LGBTQ youth (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A new residence for homeless LGBT youth named in honor of an iconic Golden Girl opened in the East Village at the beginning of May.

That specific Golden Girl, Bea Arthur, was known as a strong advocate for the LGBT community and when she left the Ali Forney Center, an organization that advocates for homeless LGBT youth, $300,000 in her will after her death in 2009, executive director Carl Siciliano promised that he would name a building for the non-profit after her.

Siciliano said at the time that the donation helped the organization make payroll for months because it had been struggling due to the recession as well as a lack of donations. However, he announced the center’s intention to keep his promise in 2015 when the organization held a ground-breaking at the East 13th Street building between Second and Third Avenues. The property was previously a single-room occupancy (SRO) and crack house that had been vacant for almost 20 years.

The city-owned building was transferred to the Ali Forney Center in 2011 after a recommendation from Community Board 3 and the project was made possible through $3.3 million in contributions from City Council and then-Borough President Scott Stringer.

Continue reading

Pride Parade will now end in Flatiron

The Pride Parade will be switching routes to include an AIDS memorial (pictured here). (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Pride Parade will end in the Flatiron District this year in a departure from the usual route, organizers have announced.

Heritage of Pride, the group that plans official NYC Pride events, said that the change is in preparation for events next year when the city will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the first time that New York will be hosting WorldPride, a global celebration of Pride. The new location will be able to accommodate the record numbers of spectators that are anticipated.

The switch is expected to reduce wait times for the more than 350 marching groups preparing to step off. The new route will also allow the parade to go past the relatively new AIDS monument near the site of the former St. Vincent’s hospital at West 12th Street and Seventh Avenue, giving the memorial a place of prominence in the proceedings.

The parade will begin at noon on Seventh Avenue at West 16th Street and go south to the memorial and passing the historic Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, before heading north on Fifth Avenue and ending at 29th Street. The dispersal points along the new route are wider than the streets in the West Village where the March usually ends so organizers hope that this will create less of a bottleneck and will allow the parade to move more quickly than in in the past. In previous years, the parade started on 36th Street and went south on Fifth Avenue, ending in the West Village.

Continue reading

LGBT protection bills collecting dust in Albany

State Senator Hoylman, pictured with his baby Lucy and husband David Sigal, had to work with a surrogate in California since surrogacy isn’t legal in New York. (Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Two years ago, State Senator Brad Hoylman told Town & Village that any LGBT-related legislation seemed to be blacklisted in Albany to the point where any bill with the term “LGBT” in it would be “dead on arrival.”

Since then, basically nothing has changed with the most recent significant LGBT-related legislation being the marriage equality act in 2011 that was championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In 2016, Hoylman did a study on the lack of action taken in the state capital since then, titled “Stranded at the Altar.” The fact that the Independent Democratic Conference has dissolved hasn’t changed anything, voting dynamic-wise, and Hoylman, as he has before, is laying the blame solely on his chamber’s Republican majority. Hoylman is the only openly gay state senator.

Additionally, while Cuomo is fighting a high-profile battle against a lesbian primary challenger, Hoylman said he wasn’t sure the governor could strong-arm the bills into law through executive order.

Continue reading

Drag queens add sparkle to story time

Drag performer Harmonica Sunbeam kicks off the Epiphany Library’s summer reading series by reading to children and doing crafts with them on Friday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It wasn’t even noon, but the atmosphere in the room already felt like a party, with at least 20 of the 35 or so young guests donning sparkly boas. The venue was the Epiphany branch of the New York Public Library on East 23rd Street, where kids aged 3-7 and their parents awaited the arrival of a drag queen. The occasion? It was on Friday at 11 a.m. and the library’s summer reading series was being kicked off with “Drag Queen Story Hour.”

Now over a year old, the program is aimed at promoting diversity and gender acceptance, and, as its official website explains, “give kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models.”

DQSH was founded in San Francisco by Michelle Tea and Radar Productions but has since branched out to other cities. It first came to New York’s Brooklyn Library and June 15 was the first time for Epiphany, where kids showed up with parents or on a class trip. Most of those in attendance, including boys, opted in for boas, which came in a few colors and were distributed by the library.

Prior to greeting the children, the drag queen doing the reading, Harmonica Sunbeam, told Town & Village she got involved with the program after seeing a Facebook post seeking drag performers to read the kids. This was after the Brooklyn Library hosted an event, which, she recalled, “went viral and there was a demand for more queens.”

Continue reading

Things to do during Pride Week

The New York City Dyke March takes place this Saturday evening. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Easily the most well-known gay pride event in New York City is the parade that happens at the end of every June, this year scheduled for this Sunday, but a number of other events are planned for this weekend in addition to the march. Read on for a list of local gatherings aimed at celebrating LGBTQ pride.

Shake Shack will be hosting a free quiet dance party to on Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. in the original Madison Square Park location at East 23rd Street. The event will be hosted by Quiet Events, a company that loans out wireless headphones for quiet dance parties throughout the city, and there will be three live DJs playing top 40 dance hits, throwbacks and hip-hop, reggae and soca. Entrance is free but a credit card is required to check in and receive the wireless headphones. The event is all ages and rainbow colors are encouraged for the dress code. Shake Shake food and drinks will be available for purchase. RSVP is available online.

While the New York City Dyke March is usually a raucous good time, the organizers technically bill the event as a protest rather than a party. The march, held on the Saturday before the parade, is mostly lesbian-led and those who don’t identify as “dykes” are encouraged to stand on the sidewalk and cheer on the participants. The organizers usually don’t seek a permit for the march, further emphasizing the political aspects of the event. Participants will step off from Bryant Park at 5 p.m. on June 23 and walk down Fifth Avenue, ending at Washington Square Park.

Continue reading

Residence for LGBT youths opening on East 13th Street

Residents of other Ali Forney facilities and staff members as well as local elected officials and members of the Cooper Square Committee gather at the Bea Arthur Residence. Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Residents of other Ali Forney facilities and staff members as well as local elected officials and members of the Cooper Square Committee gather at the Bea Arthur Residence. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On Monday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the location of what will be a new 18-bed residence for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth at 222 East 13th Street. The residence will be named for the late television and Broadway star, Bea Arthur, who was especially sympathetic to the plight of LGBT young people.

When she died in 2009, Arthur named the Ali Forney Center, an organization that helps LGBT youths, as a major beneficiary in her will, leaving $300,000 to the center. Executive director Carl Siciliano wrote in a column posted on Huffington Post on Tuesday that the center, then struggling due to the recession and a lack of donations, and the money helped them make payroll for months. Siciliano had pledged that if the Ali Forney Center ever owned property, he would name a building after her, and he will soon be able to fulfill that promise, thanks to the $3.3 million city-funded project.

The building on East 13th Street between Second and Third Avenues is a former single-room occupancy and notorious crack house that had been vacant for almost 20 years. Following a recommendation from Community Board 3 in 2011, the city-owned building was transferred to the Ali Forney Center in partnership with the Cooper Square Committee. The City Council awarded the two organizations $3 million for the project and then-Borough President Scott Stringer funded an additional $300,000 in 2012.

Continue reading