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LGBTQ youth of color organize for community-focused development

Published Feb 7, 2008 9:50 PM

Since its founding in 2000, Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment! (FIERCE!) has worked strenuously to create and amplify a voice for LGBTQ youth of color in New York City. FIERCE! emerged in response to acute experiences of profiling, violence and exclusion that LGBTQ youth of color continue to face.

Even in the areas of New York that pride themselves on diversity, preserving the open use of public space by LGBTQ youth of color continues to be a struggle. To address the economic, social and political realities affecting their community, FIERCE! continues to stage a variety of campaigns aimed at preserving safe space, creating political awareness and building an empowered community. Most recently, the group has mobilized to create a voice for its members in the development of Pier 40 in New York City’s Hudson River Park.

Pier 40, west of Houston Street and directly south of the Christopher Street Pier, is slated to become the commercial centerpiece of the park. The Hudson River Park Trust, which governs the implementation of the park, is under intense pressure to call upon private developers to meet operational and capital construction needs.

In August 2006, the trust issued a Request for Proposals to develop Pier 40. By November 2006, the trust had narrowed the field from four to two development schemes. The first scheme was offered by Urban Dove/Camp Group and would develop the pier with multiple uses, including a for-profit day camp. The second, offered by the Related Companies, would reconstruct Pier 40 as a performing arts complex—dubbed “Vegas on the Hudson”—that would create capital intensive uses, including a home of Cirque du Soleil. The Related proposal sparked outrage in the community.

FIERCE!, along with other community groups, has staged an energetic campaign to counteract the influence of private development interests and offer sensible, community-led alternatives for developing Pier 40. On Jan. 31, the Hudson River Park Trust Board of Directors convened to vote on the proposals for Pier 40, which now include a third concept offered by a group of well-connected and financially-backed Greenwich Village parents. FIERCE! continued their advocacy, with an impressive showing of support for a development approach that considers the unique needs of LGBTQ youth of color. Though the meeting was not open to public comment, FIERCE! members constituted the largest single group in attendance, ensuring that their continued interest was represented before the board.

Rather than embrace or reject any of the proposals, the Board of Directors voted to delay any further action until further study is completed, remaining open to all options until the board meeting in March.

FIERCE! is developing a plan to create a LGBTQ youth community center on Pier 40. This center will acknowledge not just the unique needs of the LGBTQ youth of color, but also incredible importance of this community to building and maintaining an open, diverse and tolerant waterfront and Greenwich Village.

FIERCE! needs your support. Lend your hand to represent the needs of a vibrant and diverse community. With your help, FIERCE! can demonstrate the power and sensibility of alternatives to intense private development and entice the Hudson River Park Trust to acknowledge and serve the needs of the entire community.

The writer is a FIERCE! ally. For more information visit [email protected] or call 646-336-6789.