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.
Beginning of a new era for the Safe Space Saves Lives Campaign…
In 2011, FIERCE saw an increase in policing in the West Village, especially on Christopher Street and the piers. Early in the Summer of 2011, the 6th Precinct launched the “Quality of Life Initiative.” This initiative would target LGBTQ Youth of Color and grant them with summons for “blocking the sidewalk or a doorway,” public urination, “excessive noise,” and many of “quality of life” violations. For many youth it has resulted in arrests. FIERCE has been strategizing for how to approach the situation in the best way. FIERCE set up meetings with elected official offices and the Commanding Officer of the 6th Precinct. FIERCE also attended townhall meetings organized by businesses and West Village Residents.
At these meetings the message from FIERCE was clear; “let’s work together to end the violence and crime in the community and bring safety to the neighborhood that doesn’t exclude anyone!” The issue has been that West Village Residents want safety but some of them are trying to get youth out of the neighborhood at the same time. FIERCE has been working with groups to strengthen relationships with West Village Residents.
Some of the ways in which we have built with groups and businesses in the West Village have been through the following ways:
- Held a West Village Relationship Building event in which residents attended and heard about issues affecting LGBTQ Youth
- Coordinated a District 3 City Council Debate with Yetta Kurland and Corey Johnson to discuss their solutions and proposals to meet the needs of LGBTQ Youth, Residents, and Business owners
- Had more than 3 west village businesses become sponsors for FIERCE’s annual bowl-a-thon fundraiser: Boots & Saddles, Henrietta Hudson, Rockbar, the Hangar, and a few more
FIERCE is continuing to build with residents through our participation in Community Board 2 meetings in which the Social Services sub committee has consistently asked us to come and present on various topics.
Taking power back from the NYPD!
Due to the increase of police in the West Village and all of the heighten presence all around New York City FIERCE increased our work around policing with engaging youth in knowing their rights. FIERCE has developed new curriculum for Know Your Rights training designed for LGBTQ Youth. Our trainings consists of icebreaker activities, true or false games, role play scenarios, a family feud game on the history of the NYPD, and other activities. To date we have trained about 180 LGBTQ Youth in New York.
We are moving forward with more know your rights trainings and including our new KYR participatory action research tool, “The Swag Wagon.” The Swag Wagon was originally created to be a pop up center to support the Our S.P.O.T. campaign but has since been documenting the experiences of LGBTQ Youth of Color with the NYPD.
To request a Know Your Rights Training for your organization or group contact John Blasco.