Volume 5, Number 31 | August 3 - 9, 2006
As People of Color in Crisis gears up for its annual four-day celebration dubbed Pride in the City, word from the U.S. Park Service is that the group will have to move its annual Jacob Riis Beach party in Rockaway, scheduled for this Sunday, across the boardwalk to a neighboring ball field.
Worse yet, from POCC’s perspective, is that the group is being denied a permit for a sound system planned for a day of outdoor entertainment slated to climax with a 6 p.m. appearance by Kevin Aviance, performing for the first time since the brutal gay-bashing in June in which he suffered a broken jaw.
“We are calling on elected leaders to stand up against this insensitive decision and the media to shine a light on this obvious case of discrimination and homophobia,” Gary English, POCC’s executive director, said in a written statement released on Wednesday.
The statement came after roughly six months of negotiation between the group and federal park officials, who for the past five years have routinely granted Pride in the City the right to gather on the beach, with a full sound system and stage, on the final day of the weekend celebration.
POCC said it will continue to negotiate to win a sound permit, and is planning a Thursday press conference to draw attention to its demand.
Lisa Eckert, recently appointed superintendent for the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area that oversees Riis Beach, offered a strikingly different assessment of where negotiations stand. She said English was satisfied with the ball field location, and that while POCC was disappointed by the lack of a sound permit, that decision follows park policy, especially important in light of two recent drownings that raised concerns about the ability of lifeguards to hear things going on near the shore.
She described the impression left by a letter she wrote to POCC Tuesday that attendance in the ball field would be limited to 200 as a “misclarification.” The permit will in fact allow for 1,500 people, as was the case last year.
When POCC first applied for a permit in February, the group was denied, on the grounds it violated park policy last year—by drawing 5,000 people, more than three times the number permitted; by failing to remove its trash; by driving vehicles on the boardwalk; and by failing to close down by the 9 p.m. curfew.
English rejected those reasons as bogus, denying their substance, and noting that in five years, “there have been no stabbings, no drug overdoses. This isn’t the White Party.” He added that the group’s security deposit has always been returned.
Both sides concede that Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents portions of Brooklyn and Queens, helped re-start negotiations for a permit. English, however, charged that parks officials “ripped asses with Weiner. He’s real pissed.”
English pledged to keep pressing for the best, most open celebration on Sunday and advises folks to head to the ball field.
Pride in the City opens with a Welcome Ceremony Thursday evening at the Brooklyn Marriott downtown on Adams Street, continues with The Blackout Art Series at TriBeCa Performing Arts Center on Chambers Street Friday evening, hosts a family picnic Saturday at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, and concludes at Riis Beach Sunday. Pride in the City’s outdoor events include a tent offering rapid HIV testing in line with POCC’s core mission of increasing effective HIV prevention in communities of color.
For complete information, see our 7 Days/ 7 Nights listing on page 18 or visit prideinthecity.com.