NYC: September 2007 Archives

drum corps section

the vanguard

past the Stonewall site

the campaign theme

not as bad as it looks

the curious gather on the sidewalks

We're saying the First Amendment isn't just for the homos.

It was a fabulous party. First, it was safe (no assaults and no arrests), but it was really fun, it was beautiful, it broadcast the issue, and on top of another event earlier this week, it looks like that issue now has real momentum.

Last night's Parade Without A Permit, put together by The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] and its allies, was the second in what is likely to be a continuing series.

Progressing through streets filled with surprised and delighted diners and party goers enjoying the warm evening air of a Saturday in autumn, somewhere between 150 and 200 colorful and energetic activists broadcast the word about City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's support of new NYPD rules restricting free assembly. The group started inside Washington Square Park, accompanied by signs and outrunners with informative pink paper flyers and led by banners and a snappy percussion section. The party wound its way through the West Village, Quinn's own district, for more than two and a half hours before dispersing from Pier 45 at Christopher Street.

Surprisingly the "unpermitted" assembly, was neither broken up nor even seriously provoked by the police. In fact the few uniformed people visible last night performed the kind of martial duties which groups like ACT UP have historically assigned to themselves, halting vehicle traffic for the protest's passage across streets and then, most remarkable of all, letting it take most of the width of Eighth Avenue all the way to 15th Street. At that point the parade turned left and then left again to head back into the Village. The police disappeared at about the same time.

Did the NYPD get the word from Quinn's office to see that nothing untoward would happen to the queers and their friends, or was the Department's low-key handling of the event just part of its historical and notorious pattern of arbitrary enforcement of the law? Also, "good cop" one day, "bad cop" the next, was something we experienced throughout the years of ACT UP's biggest actions. You never knew when you were safe, and you don't today, especially if no one is watching.

One of the most striking images of the evening was presented early on, when the ragtag (I mean that in the very best sense) procession passed the site of Stonewall Inn, where the modern homosexual movement began.

The pictures above and on Flickr and on other sites show the diversity of the protesters, in age, gender, sexuality, race and mobility, one of the most satisfactory elements of a evening of empowerment.

Not only is the First Amendment, and freedom from an arbitrary police force in general, not just for homos, these rights must not be secured only for a queer elite and "decent citizens" of other descriptions. Reflecting today on what was accomplished last night, Andy Podell, a member of RHA, warns:

We have used our position as relatively-privileged queer activists to advocate for freedom of assembly and against police harrassement of queers and activists. At some point our rallying cry of last night, "We don't need a permit", becomes a little easy and self-indulgent. We don't need a permit because at this time a city councilperson doesn't want to fuck with us because we're queer and have connections and it would be bad publicity for her.

Like the well-connected SRLP [Silvia Rivera Law Project], the intervention of Quinn in getting the charges dropped against Wed's night's arrestees does not mean that the NYPD will stop harrassing trans people or people of color or queers. I'd like to see the RHA up the ante in connecting with people who get picked on by Quinn or the NYPD outside of the eye of the queer media (it might not even be queers).

It's probably just a (very minor) fantasy of my own, and it will probably stay that way, but for the next parade I'd love to see a pink and black fife player added to the excellent drum corps: For me it's the original Revolution image, but this second one might just be led by queers - of every description.

I've put more images of the evening on Flickr.

Sylvia at New York City Hall, with the community she helped create, in an undated photo

"Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned" [Sylvia Rivera, 1995].

At the Sylvia Rivera Law Project's after-party following its fifth anniversary celebration and fundraising event Wednesday night, two members of the community were violently arrested and others were pepper sprayed by police without warning or cause.

I'm betting the cops were frightened.

The Project, named for the fierce and indomitable queer and trans rights pioneer, provides free legal services, advocacy and other support for low-income people of color who are transgender, gender non-conforming, or intersex. For details on the incident and continuing updates, see the SLRP site.

When will the savagery stop? How long will we have to put up with this stupidity and this thuggery?

Especially in a city as dynamic and sophisticated as this one is, no one should have to fear assault and arrest by the police simply because of who she or he may be.

I don't expect most members of the NYPD to understand New York, since their ranks are drawn from a fairly-narrow pool of communities, each of which tends to fear the heterogeneity and eccentricities which are the lifeblood of this metropolis, and because increasingly neither officers nor their bosses even live inside the city they patrol and monitor.

Incidentally, in spite of what some people may think and say, including officials who should know better, the police are not supposed to "control" us or our "situations". The police are public servants, entrusted and paid to keep us safe, not to tell us what we may or may not do.

I cannot imagine why sad stories like this one, and especially the even more dramatic and deadly episodes of police violence which litter our recent history, would not be an incredible embarrassment to the force itself, to the politicians to whom its leaders must report, and ultimately to every New Yorker. Who is responsible for making the NYPD look so damn stupid? Do they want us to be like Los Angeles, a city with a police force better known for its ruthlessness than for its skills?

There's no way to assign the precise proportions of the blame various people share for the continuing shame of this Police Department, but our mayors, commissioners and chiefs, and at least one council member and speaker, would all have long rap sheets if we were to try for a real accounting.

But each time there's another incident of brutality I think about how little we actually pay the police we send into the streets. I'm not suggesting we reward incompetence, unnecessary violence or arbitrary enforcement more generously, but rather that we should generate greater competence, more appropriate physical restraint and responsible enforcement by attracting better people with better pay, and then training and educating them better. With as many billionaires as we harbor in these boroughs we can certainly afford a truly professional force, at every level.

Also, this isn't about throwing money at NYPD executives. It hasn't served the officers on the beat or the citizens who rely on them to have those who occupy the top desk jobs in the Department routinely negotiate the terms of their own compensation at the expense of rookies and the lower ranks.

It's probably unreasonable to hope that anything might change in the hottest real estate markets in the city, but can I at least dream that a pay scale proportionate to a demand for real professionalism (and appropriate to the extraordinary physical risks) might mean that most of our neighborhoods at least could be watched over by officers who actually live in those neighborhoods - and who wouldn't be parking their SUVs and Pickups on our sidewalks?

[some of the points made above originated with Barry in a conversation today; image from Miami Dade College]

the RHA visits Speaker Quinn at the Stonewall Democratic Club open meeting

Yesterday the junta in Burma invoked a colonial-era section of the nation's criminal code under which the government can use police or military force against any group of people who have not been granted a permit to assemble. The rule's threshold is any assembly of more than five. Burma and the world is once again witness to the open violence with which undemocratic authority will inevitably try to maintain itself. At this hour fourteen people are known to have been killed by soldiers and police.

Back in New York people are starting to make connections. Tim Doody is a member of the Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] and a constituent of Council Member Christine Quinn, who this year promulgated a New York City rule making illegal any "unpermitted" assembly of 50 or more people. Responding to news of Burma's emergency proclamation restricting citizen assembly, or what most of the media is referring to as Burma's "curfew", today Doody asked,

Does Speaker Quinn really believe the difference between a junta and a democracy is 45 people?

Last night members of the RHA attended an open meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club, held in the LGBT Community Center, where Speaker Quinn had been asked to speak. The RHA held up two banners on the sides of the room calling attention to the First Amendment issue of arbitrarily-formulated Parade Rules which will inevitably be arbitrarily enforced. When the Q&A session was closed, and the host had not called on anyone who might have asked the Club's distinguished visitor about the elephant in the room, one of the guests who was not a member of the RHA asked that the question be solicited, adding that it would reflect very badly on the people in the room if the signs displayed so prominently went unexplained.

Quinn now graciously sought out a raised hand and the question came from the floor, 'Would you explain to the constituency in this room your support of and your role in the promulgation of the unconstitutional, so-called Police 'Parade Rules'?"

There was nothing new or revealing in her response, and I myself still honestly have no idea why she got herself into a law-and-order posture so contrary to anything she ever stood for. Her argument remains rather circular and her logic vague or obsfucatory, but in this venue there was no way to carry on a discussion or venture an appeal to reason, something thus far lacking in her defense of the police rules.

She never lost her composure and she even offered to "come back here [the Stonewall Democratic Club or the LGBT Center?] any time" to specifically discuss the issue. There were two real surprises, I think, each possibly suggesting a chink in the blue wall to which she seems to have attached herself. One was the fact that at least twice she said that the assembly rules were "an ongoing conversation", and the other was an interesting throwaway line something to the effect, "If in the future legislation is produced . . . .", suggesting that the Council might still get involved in the issue and hold open public hearings, as it surely ought to.

In the meantime the conversation will continue on the only stage the powerless have available to them: that constructed on free assembly and speech. On Saturday at 7 o'clock, a second "Parade Without A Permit", a joyous party celebrating those fundamental rights, will assemble at the fountain in Washington Square Park and progress through the West Village, the streets of the Speaker's own district.

[the small sign on the right reads, "1st Amendment not for sale"]


The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] logo incorporates the group's Regulation Pink Gasmaskģ, which has been donned by members since 2006 while they pursue their perilous mission fighting the American mainstream - an environment which they argue, and few would dispute, is presently toxic for queers.

They're back. The RHA loves a parade - for a good cause. Even if they may be more sensitive than some folks about the Lesbian author of the outrage against which they've been protesting, being queers themselves, the RHA has been fighting for all of America on this one.

Five months ago this young, spirited New York civil rights group stepped off from City Hall Park on a sunny afternoon in a colorful un-permitted parade of fellow citizens (both homosexual and otherwise engaged) to protest New York City's new and totally-unconstitutional police rule restricting freedom of assembly and speech. On Saturday, in another "Parade Without a Permit", they take their costumes, props and merry bands, bicycles and carts and strong legs on a more ambitious, a more public tour. This time the neighborhood will be the dense residential and commercial blocks of the West Village, the district represented by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn is the main target of the RHA's anger because of her prominent role in the promulgation, without review, discussion or vote, of draconian rules which cede dangerous arbitrary power to the police.

This hot new band of activists and its growing numbers of allies will together be doing their best to broadcast that Quinn's position as an out queer with a progressive, largely queer constituency on which she has built her career up to now is totally at odds with her position on a principle of law so fundamental to the political life of a free society. The RHA and its friends have other serious complaints about our ambitious Speaker's positions and agenda, but this issue trumps everything else: The right to speak and to demonstrate about any subject is on the line in this city today.

The parade assembles in Washington Square Park at 7 pm this Saturday, September 29, at the edge of the central fountain. The event is absolutely not envisioned as an arrest scenario by any of its organizers, so everyone is encouraged to join the serious merriment.

For more information, see the RHA's new, James Wentzy-built website. I have it on good authority that there will be no speeches on Saturday, so maybe a visit to the site is an even better idea than it would be prior to most demos; everyone should be ready with a good sound bite at these things.

NEWS FLASH: It's just been confirmed that the Stonewall Veterans are going to be a part of this parade, front and center. Now I'm thinking, pink-and-black-draped pedicab chariots conveying our noble ur-rebels through the streets past the sites which were the scenes of their triumphs almost forty years ago. Take that, all you soft, smug folk who ever imagined you could even be the cuttings of the giants who opened the doors you pass through so easily today.

[image from the RHA]

hanging out in a park and free bike repair station on 7th Avenue at Charles yesterday

Park(ing) Day, it's about serious greenstreets

See Jim Dwyer's column for a word picture of the larger footprint of New York's part in the event, organized by the Trust for Public Land.

Another piece in the NYTimes reported:

The city’s Transportation Department does not know the total number of parking spaces in the city, but according to Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, 45 percent of public land in Manhattan is dedicated to moving and storing cars.
That's a pretty impressive figure, especially since the total area of "public land" would include Central Park and every other square foot of park and sidewalk.

NOTES: I found the wonderful Barbara Ross photograph [earlier credited on the flickr site to Mike Pidell, who is actually in the photo instead] at the top of this entry while looking for pictures of yesterday's events. The unremarkable image of the sign is mine. Finally, before I was told that the photo had mistakenly been credited to Pidell, while I was searching for a way I could link to him I located this delightful five-minute bike clown video from last year, "Bike Lane Liberation".

[with thanks to Tim Doody, image by Barbara Ross from flickr]

untitled (pink line) 2007

I still wouldn't set anything down on it, but sometimes there's a bit of beauty in the lowly subway platform. Of course it doesn't show up if you bring something along to read while you wait for the train.






We wandered through Hudson River Park along the West 20's and 30's on Sunday afternoon, intermittently dodging the distractions of speedy human-powered wheeled traffic (much of the pedestrian path remains to be built), construction equipment, the banshee screams of jet helicopters alighting and flying off only feet from the path, and the monstrous hulks of deteriorating piers, including one still used by the city as a towed-vehicle pound.

It will be a magnificent park when it's completed, as long as we are able to maintain its beauty and its comforts, but under the present circumstances our Sunday walk had to be mostly about checking on its progress since our last venture so far west.

Yet we were still able to enjoy the richness of the small life forms and still-life forms installed where the harbor's waters wash or beat the shore of our narrow urban world. We checked the odometer on Paul Ramirez-Jonas's installation, "Long Time", but were disappointed to find the wheel itself was quite still at the moment, poised somewhere between the force of the rising tide and the current of the river.

At the edge of a blocks-long reserve composed of a landscaped thicket designed to reintroduce the rich natural history of the Hudson estuary, we watched a Monarch butterfly and two dancing white moths. We saw and heard many birds but it was the tiny female or immature male Painted Bunting* which I'll remember most. No turkeys, deer or coyotes that day. We also heard and watched the surf throw spray up through a long grate on the edge of the walkway. I captured an image of a bit of the spume washing over the outstretched branches of two hardy plants eager to reach more of the light of the afternoon sun, but the animal life on the edge of the river was even less willing to wait for my camera.

in the low afternoon sun of September the little guy didn't look at all like most of the images I found on line, but instead was more like a wren-size fluffy ball of chartreuse and, if I might exaggerate a bit, nearly as bright as Sweetpea


the Realpolitiker's very favorite Tracht

UPDATE: For concerned citizens of the world who might find the information useful, I've learned that Kissinger is expected to speak at the Parade Gala Benefit Banquet scheduled for 7 o'clock tonight, Friday, at the New York Hilton & Towers, 1335 Sixth Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets.

Would somebody please tell the folks behind New York's German American Steuben Parade that having Henry Kissinger as a grand marshal is not cool at all. The kind of war crimes for which this man is wanted by governments in a number countries all over the world may be very American these days, but that doesn't mean any ethnic group should be proud to be associated with their author, even if it has a tenuous relationship with the land of his birth.

I'm an American of unmixed German ancestry going back generations, I've studied U.S. and German history, and I've studied and lived here and in Deutschland, so I might be given some leave to say that I suspect the folks living in what the chairman of Saturday's event calls the "alte Heimat" would not be so thick as some of their cousins over here seem to be. German Germans also generally know their history pretty well - for significant historical and moral reasons.

The big event is scheduled for this Saturday. I have to be in Greenpoint that afternoon, or I'd be there physically to remind him that not all of us have forgotten what he's done. The parade starts at noon, and runs uptown on Fifth Avenue, starting at 63 Street and ending at 86 Street. I'm not sure how these thing work, that is, I don't know where a so-called Grand Marshal might best be spotted, but there is a reviewing stand somewhere along the route of the march.


[David Levine image from The Corsair]

supernal music between the altar and the first pew

Barry and I are big fans of the two-year-old Chelsea Symphony. It has little to do with allegiance to a home team, even if that's what got us into the little German Church around the corner the first time. There were also at least two other connections: One of our neighbors, Blair Lawhead, is a superb violinist who plays with the group and Louise Fishman, who also lives across the hall and had beaten us to a performance, has since lent an image of one of her magnificent paintings to animate the orchestra's posters. It seemed like everyone in the building, including the doormen and porters, knew about our local band of players before Barry and I heard them for the first time.

This summer, through the generosity of another neighbor, David Shear, a string quartet composed of musicians from the Orchestra was engaged to play as part of our annual garden party. Wow. Now that's a home team.

Since first attending a concert last summer, we've found it almost impossible to miss any of their appearances. Yes, they're that good; they're very good - but there's even more to like.

I started out in the Midwest a long time ago with a passion for serious music almost from the very beginning. I've now lived and traveled over much of the world, during which time I've enjoyed some magnificent orchestras I've attended (with pleasure, but often with too much wincing) more than most people's share of performances by smaller, less professional ensembles. When I'm home I'm surrounded by thousands of LPs and CDs, for the most part "classical" recordings of music stretching from ancient Greece to the day before yesterday. They are mostly professional ensembles and the majority are on commercial labels.

But to be in a modest-sized hall with this Mozart-sized company of well-rehearsed, enthusiastic and gifted young artists lifts the spirit in ways an orchestra like the New York Philharmonic never can. Yes, tears will happen. And perhaps to top it off, there's at least one piece of new music in each program - take that, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall programmers!

If New York has more living composers than there are music programs open to them, there are also far more great musicians and conductors than there are seats or podiums available in the orchestras. Some of these composers and performers still believe in symphonic music and some of them are stubborn enough and creative enough to take things into their own hands and do something about it. Some of them have founded, or found a home in, the Chelsea Symphony.

I highly recommend this concert experience, regardless of what your previous commitment to classical music may be, even if doing so might make it harder for me to ever find a seat again only a dozen feet from the conductor.

This is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for the Chelsea Symphony:

The Chelsea Symphony is an orchestra noted for its uniquely fluid hierarchy. Based in New York City, The Chelsea Symphony's members rotate as the ensemble’s own conductors, composers, and soloists. Each season, every conductor conducts a complete symphonic program with the group; each composer has a new work performed by the full orchestra; and every soloist performs a featured piece with the entire ensemble. The Chelsea Symphony gives most of its concerts at the German Church of St. Paul's.

There will be performances this Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3, in St. Paul's Church at 315 W 22 Street (just west of 8 Avenue).

Saturday at 8:
Debussy Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun (Don Lawhead conducting)
Haydn Cello Concerto in D Major (Mark Seto conducting, Michael Haas, cello)
Wagner Siegfried Idyll (Geoff Robson conducting)
Mozart Symphony 29 (Geoff Robson conducting)

Sunday at 3:
Strauss Concerto No. 1 for Horn (Mark Seto conducting, Katherine Smith, horn)
Wieniawski Fantasia on themes from Gounod's Faust (Mark Seto conducting, Hanna Lachert, violin)
Wagner Siegfried Idyll (Geoff Robson conducting)
Mozart Symphony 29 (Geoff Robson conducting)

[image from Wikipedia]

"Del Baldwin, Tence Massey and Anna Pope are preparing library books for circulation."

Barry and I will be participating with Leah Stuhltrager as jurors in a benefit for the Greenpoint branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday. The event is being organized by Aileen Tat with the generous help of many others, including the artists donating work.

We love Greenpoint, and we love libraries. And I love this photograph.

Barry and I think the three of us will be awarding a prize or prizes to some of the artists represented in the sale. As Barry writes on his own site, "Show up and be shocked to see us outside before 2pm!"

In a totally baffling development which seems designed to frustrate all the volunteers involved in this project, the BPL central marketing department has told us that as bloggers the following information is all we are permitted to post:

The Greenpoint 100: Friends of the Greenpoint Library Artists' Benefit

Saturday, September 15, 2007
11:00 am to 2:30 pm

At the Greenpoint Library
107 Norman Ave. @ Leonard St.
Brooklyn, NY 11222

For more information please call the library at 718-349-8504 or
email [email protected]

[1878 image by unknown photographer, along with supplied caption, from]


It's the eleventh of September again. Yes, it happens once a year. But I'm not interested in adding to the revanchisme stoked by every mention of the terrible events which occurred in my city six years ago. I am interested in the fact that even if we wanted to we would be unable to read a list of the names of the hundreds of thousands of people we have killed in the name of our own dead (many of whom were from countries other than the U.S.).

Moreover, the continuing shame of our concentration camps at Guantanamo and elsewhere in the world doesn't seem to be worthy of the attention of many who actually do oppose the war in Iraq.

We are letting ourselves be ridden by fools, fanatics, politicians and arms suppliers - and those who profit from the evil mischief done in our name. The killing could stop, the camps could be closed and the terror could be defused, but not if we refuse to look at the world outside - and continue to let others exploit us.

[fabric color swatch, otherwise unrelated to Guantanamo, from froggtoggs]

pride-of-ownership emblem, or NYC-traffic-defense gizmo?

untitled (14 Mourning Doves) 2007

This page is an archive of entries in the NYC category from September 2007.

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