Portraits of LGBTQ icons pop up in Stuy Town

A mural on the 20th Street Loop depicts artist Frida Kahlo and performer Josephine Baker. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In celebration of Pride Month, portraits of LGBTQ pioneers and celebrities have popped up in Stuyvesant Town, painted right onto outdoor staircases.

The larger than life faces in black and white, framed by rainbow backgrounds, include those of Freddie Mercury, Frida Kahlo, Josephine Baker and David Bowie, among others.

The artist is John Cuevas, a California resident who specializes in bright, colorful murals, and worked from Friday to late Saturday. Following a rain-soaked Sunday, some of the paint had peeled in spots, though those depicted in the murals remained recognizable.

On Monday morning, a few residents who were out and about near where the portraits were, around the loop roads, told Town & Village they were enjoying the art. The project was sponsored by Stuyvesant Town management and will remain on view through June.

Longtime resident Andy Ward, while out walking his dog Rexie on the 20th Street Loop, at first was concerned the art might be something promotional. But when told the promotion was for Pride Month, he changed his mind.

“I like good causes,” Ward said.  While gesturing to the painting nearest to his feet, he added, “Who doesn’t like art? They didn’t have names at first but I could tell this one was Freddie Mercury.”

Also walking by that portrait at the time was Paul Sachs, who called the artwork “beautiful.”

He added, “It’s nice to see Stuy Town support Gay Pride Month, you know? I’m a native New Yorker, so I support everybody as long as they’re doing good.”

Near the community center, another staircase mural depicted David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase and the late astronaut Sally Ride.

A mural near the Stuyvesant Town community center depicts the late musician David Bowie and astronaut Sally Ride.

Of all the murals, Bowie’s seemed to have weathered Sunday night’s rainstorm the worst, with a large gash-like tear in his cheek due to the peeling paint.

Upon noticing this, Bowie fan Nancy Fischer said she hoped it could be restored.

“That didn’t last very long,” she observed, adding that she had enjoyed watching the artist at work, alongside a couple of neighbors who were seniors, a couple of days earlier.

“They were very receptive,” she recalled, which surprised her at the time. “Because a lot of people don’t like change.”

She added, “I would say that it is a very cool addition to the community. I just wish it could be more lasting.” Contemplating the portrait of Bowie again, Fischer said, “I’d still make out with him.”

Reached on the phone on Monday, Cuevas said the project came about after he was contacted by Stuy Town’s director of lifestyle services Robert Vasquez to do some outdoor art. It was Cuevas’ idea to do portraits and suggested possible subjects, all of whom got management’s approval.

A total of 10 portraits now appear on five different staircases. Along with the aforementioned names, others who were painted were mathematician and computing pioneer Alan Turing, stonewall activists and drag queens Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, novelist and activist James Baldwin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who some believe was a lesbian.

“I was stoked, because it was New York City Pride,” said Cuevas.

Another mural on the 20th Street Loop depicts singer Freddie Mercury and mathematician Alan Turing.

Since the portraits were intended to be temporary, they were wheatpasted onto the ground, with Cuevas noting that this technique has become synonymous with New York street art and has since spread to other cities and countries.

“It’s an amazing art form. What I really like is it’s non-toxic and removable,” he said.

While the wheatpasting process was somewhat new to Cuevas, he is no stranger to outdoor art. Immediately upon his return from Manhattan he got back to work on mural of a realistic-looking serpent emerging from a wall in La Quinta, California.

As for the Stuy Town art, Cuevas, who identifies as bisexual, said while he was working, he was overwhelmed with the amount of supportive feedback he got.

“Just the spirit of the community here, it was a lot of sharing,” said Cuevas. “Pride can be a difficult time for people who have a lifestyle that is not necessarily mainstream. I heard a lot of people’s stories about their brothers or themselves. It’s nice to feel that your community around you supports you.”

He recalled how residents he spoke with seemed surprised to learn that the owner had commissioned the Pride-themed project.

“I asked what had happened in the past, and they said, ‘Not this.’ I said, ‘That’s great.’ I look forward to doing more projects there.”

Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk told T&V the Pride project was “simply recognition of our concept of community and unity,” not unlike concerts on the Oval or the recently announced chips-and-salsa gatherings for neighbors.

“Pride Month was something we haven’t participated in and we felt it was time,” he said. Since Cuevas began work, Hayduk said the feedback has been unanimously positive. Even a resident who early on in the process called Hayduk to report what looked like someone making graffiti called back when Cuevas was finished to say it looked great.

As for the pieces of the portraits that have been torn away due to immediately being rained on, not to mention walked on, Hayduk said he was looking into seeing if Cuevas could return to touch them up. Especially since rainstorms aren’t exactly isolated incidents this time of year.

“It’s June in New York. We have 27 more days to go,” said Hayduk.

Cuevas, meanwhile, said he doesn’t mind the effect of the rain, having seen photos of the installation people tagged him in on social media. “There are sporadic drips of color that bathe the portraits,” he said. “The rainbow grime gives it new meaning.”

In related news, the first ever Stuyvesant Town Pride parade for residents and employees has been scheduled for Thursday, June 20. According to the property’s official website, the event will take place at 6 p.m. on First Avenue between 18th and 20th Streets and continue to the Oval for activities and performances.

Like the murals, Hayduk said it’s about building community. “One of our primary jobs is bringing people together,” he said.

 

Update: This article has been updated to reflect a change in time for the parade.

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Hoylman bills get support in governor’s 2019 agenda

State Senator Hoylman is the sponsor of the Child Victim’s Act and GENDA. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted a number of causes frequently championed by State Senator Brad Hoylman in his speech outlining his agenda for 2019 earlier last month, in addition to pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The governor specifically called for the passage of Hoylman’s legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes and the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime and human rights laws. The governor also called for bolstering gun control measures and passing Senator Hoylman’s bill banning bump-fire stock devices.

Hoylman said that he’s optimistic about the governor’s commitment to pass his legislation, especially because of the Democrats’ new majority. Of Hoylman’s bills that the governor mentioned in his address, the senator said that the Child Victims Act, which would increase the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, is one of the most crucial.

“New York is an outlier for protections for child sexual abuse and LGBT issues, which were two issues that the governor mentioned, so I’m really glad to see him supporting them,” Hoylman said. “And now we have a Senate to support them. No longer does the governor have to compromise, which unfortunately has been the case in the last decade.”

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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.

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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.

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Editorial: Now’s your chance, Cuomo

Even New Yorkers who are far from being political junkies know one thing. Andrew Cuomo is running scared over his primary against lesbian activist Cynthia Nixon. The most recent poll numbers are favoring the incumbent. However, political outsider Nixon is a threat to the governor’s LGBTQ supporters; with Pride Week coming up, so too will his name and hers among New York’s Democrat voters.

There will be those rightfully pointing out how Cuomo strong-armed marriage equality into reality in 2011, but as State Senator Brad Hoylman has proven with a study, LGBTQ New Yorkers have been “stranded at the altar” since then. And with seven years having gone by, it does appear they’ve officially been jilted by Albany.

This legislative session in the state capital is over now, but elected officials, including Cuomo, still have a chance to at least commit to passing some LGBTQ protections like (at least) banning gay conversion therapy of young people and ensuring a fairer workplace for gay and transgender people. And we truly don’t know what’s stopping them. Yes, the State Senate is controlled by Republicans and that is where all this legislation, like tenant protection legislation, has gone to die.

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Editorial: Cuomo should be worried

After a brief period of gauging the public’s response to a Governor Miranda, award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon made her candidacy as a primary challenger to Governor Andrew Cuomo official.

On Monday, her slick campaign website with a logo touting Cynthia for New York was launched, followed by a press conference in Brooklyn the next day. What came next was that former mayoral candidate and fellow high-profile lesbian Christine Quinn criticized Nixon (who supported Quinn’s opponent, Bill de Blasio in 2013) as being unqualified. While it may have just come off as being a bitter taunt from a losing candidate, Quinn does have a point.

Other than her activism for equality in education and LGBT rights, the Broadway veteran known best for her role on TV’s “Sex and the City,” is a political outsider. We know, we know, this wasn’t a problem for our president, whose reality TV history obviously helped him rather than hurt him. However, in New York, the races for local office can get pretty competitive and governor is a pretty high-reaching role for someone who’s never served in a public capacity.

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Dyke March celebrates 25 years of protesting

Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Women and the occasional man gathered on Fifth Avenue for the annual Dyke March at the end of last month, commemorating the 25th year for the protest.

The march originated in Washington, D.C. when groups organized protests the evening before the LGBT March on Washington in April 1993. The New York Lesbian Avengers, a group formed the year before to elevate issues important to lesbians, helped organized the logistics of the march and due to its success, organized a march in New York that June.

Organizers bill the event specifically as a protest and notably do not obtain permits for the march, which heads down Fifth Avenue from Bryant Park to the fountain in Washington Square Park.

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Pride Parade was part celebration, part protest

Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The annual Pride Parade marched down Fifth Avenue from 36th Street down to the West Village at the end of last month, with the event doubling as a protest against the Trump administration.

Although the organization also had its usual presence as a group later in the parade, the American Civil Liberties Union’s appearance as one of the grand marshals at the very beginning set the tone early as representatives carried “Resist” signs, which appeared throughout the march from various other participants and groups.

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Pols rally for stronger gun laws

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Dan Garodnick at City Hall (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Dan Garodnick at City Hall (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, along with other elected officials, rallied at City Hall last Friday to demand that Congress take action on gun safety reforms, in light of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando.

LGBT and gun safety advocates were also there, pushing for the renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, which previously banned the use of semiautomatic assault weapons, but the law expired in 2004, as well as pushing for legislation that would require universal background checks and a bill that would prohibit those on a terrorist watchlist and those convicted of a hate crime from buying a gun.

Maloney has also pushed for legislation that would lift the prohibition on federal public health research on gun violence.

“No other bill relating to gun violence has been passed except for the study of gun safety,” she said at City Hall.

“The refusal to prevent future violence is unacceptable and the ban on public health research is totally insane.”

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Former Gramercy police precinct to be auctioned off

June30 21st Precinct

327 East 22nd Street, originally home to the 21st Precinct (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two years ago, a Gramercy building that was once home to the NYPD’s 21st Precinct was sold to developer Sam Suzuki, who planned to convert the building to luxury condos.

However, the building, located at 327 East 22nd Street, is now scheduled to be sold at a public auction on Thursday, June 30 at 11 a.m. The upcoming sale, which was mentioned in a public notice in the New York Times, will take place at the New York County Courthouse and is being facilitated by Mission Capital Advisors. In the notice, the property is referred to as “SCPD Gramercy 1 LLC.”

In April, 2014, Suzuki bought the four-story building between First and Second Avenues for $11.5 million, securing an $18 million mortgage. As a condition of the sale, Suzuki also got 7,000 square feet of air rights. In February of 2015 the owner got a permit to demolish the property. However, today it still sits — at least the outside of it — boarded up and covered by a scaffolding. The permit to fully demolish the building expired this February, and the owner hasn’t since filed for a new one.

Prior to this, the building was used as a home for LGBT young people, and run by Green Chimneys, a nonprofit based in Brewster, New York, that owned the building.

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Hoylman: Republicans blocking LGBT, gun legislation

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo courtesy of Senator Hoylman)

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo courtesy of Senator Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Meet the New York State Senate’s most frustrated member.
It’s the end of another legislative term, and yet, even the recent massacre at an Orlando gay club, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, has not been enough of an event to lead to gun reforms. Nor has it motivated Albany to pass protections for the LGBT population.
So noted Senator Brad Hoylman in an interview with Town & Village last week. For example, one bill Hoylman’s pushing that went nowhere would have banned anyone from the federal no-fly list from buying guns. This is separate from similar federal legislation.
For this, the Democrat senator laid the blame on the usual culprits for blocking any bills he authors or supports — the Republican majority.

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Supreme Court ruling celebrated at pride parade

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By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New York’s gay and LGBT pride march, held last Sunday, came at a particularly appropriate time this year as it was scheduled just two days after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, the state’s only openly-gay senator and a participant in the parade last weekend, cheered the ruling.

“As a gay husband and father, I’m extremely proud to be an American today,” Hoylman said. “LGBT couples everywhere will now enjoy the same basic civil right that New York State granted back in 2011. It’s exciting to think that one day my four-year old daughter will read about Obergefell v. Hodges in school and understand the transformative effect the case is bound to have on LGBT families in our country.”

In recognition of the decision and in honor of Pride Week, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed that the spire of One World Trade Center be lit up in rainbow hues on Sunday night. Cuomo, who signed same-sex marriage legislation in 2011, also marched in the parade and having recently been granted the authority to officiate marriages, conducted a ceremony at the Stonewall Inn on the morning before the march.

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Hoylman bill would help LGBT veterans who’ve been denied benefits

State Senator Brad Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, State Senator Brad Hoylman released a report focusing on how LGBT veterans have been denied a multitude of benefits for decades and announced his plan to introduce legislation that would address this longstanding issue. The reason, he explained in the report, is that over 50 state benefits are contingent upon a veteran’s discharge status. This would make those who were discharged solely for their sexual orientation or gender identity potentially ineligible to receive those benefits, which include scholarships, job opportunities, health screenings, tax breaks and even reimbursement for burial costs.

On his “New York Restoration of Honor Act,” Hoylman said, “It’s appalling that there are generations of LGBT veterans right here in New York who continue to be discriminated against and denied important benefits by the very government they fought to defend. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ thankfully is over (having ended in 2011), but my report shows that the holdover of the widespread injustice against LGBT service members remains.”

Around 114,000 U.S. service members have been discharged for their sexual orientation or gender identity since World War II.

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