Post-Pride Parade, Police Barricades Were the Guests That Wouldn’t Leave  

After the June 24 Pride Parade, police barricades remained on W. 16th St. until their removal on July 24. | Photo by Paul Groncki

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | A month after New York City’s Pride Parade stepped off from Chelsea, the president of one block association in that neighborhood is complaining of delays in removing the police barricades and portable toilets that were part of staging that event.

“I love you all, but it has now been 4 weeks since the pride march on June 24th,” Paul Groncki, chair of the 100 W. 16th St. Block Association, wrote in a July 23 email to City Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office, NYPD representatives, Burt Lazarin, chair of Community Board 4, and Bruce Pachter, the head of community relations for Heritage of Pride (HOP) — the organization that produces the annual parade and related events. “There are still police barricades blocking the sidewalk in front of 154 West 16th Street,” Groncki wrote, “and interfering with the subway entrance on the southwest corner of 16th Street and 6th Avenue.”

The 2018 Pride Parade was staged in Chelsea with the march heading south on Seventh Avenue, east on Christopher and Eighth Sts., then north on Fifth Ave. to end at 29th St. The parade has never before been staged in Chelsea.

The new route was a test to see if a shorter route would reduce the time required to complete the parade. The march, which begins at noon, ended at 9:14 p.m., just 24 minutes shorter than the 2017 parade, but still longer than the 2016 and 2015 parades that lasted roughly eight hours each.

While the NYPD has required all parades to run no longer than five hours since 2010, the annual Pride Parade has not been that short in years. HOP is anticipating a much larger crowd in 2019, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that were the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Some Chelsea residents, including LGBTQ residents, were already unhappy with the parade being staged in their neighborhood. Those tensions were further inflamed because they only learned of the plan just a few weeks before the march.

“For the future, this is not going to happen,” said Kimon Retzos, a co-president of the West 15th Street 100 and 200 Block Association, during a June 13 meeting with HOP and Chelsea residents. “We will get legal representation to stop this from happening.”

Portable toilets remained on W. 16 St. for three days after the June 24 Pride Parade. | Photo by Paul Groncki

In emails sent to Chelsea Now since June 24, Groncki wrote that it took three days to remove the portable toilets that were placed outside his apartment building. In a phone call, Groncki said the barricades were finally removed on July 24.

“The Pride March stands out in our memories NOT for what it stood for, but for shutting down our neighborhood for a full day, leaving ​portable toilets in front of my building for 3 days, and leaving​ police barricades on our street for 4 weeks,” he wrote in the July 23 email. “We will organize and fight against the location of the Pride March kick-off in Chelsea for next year!!!”

Contingents began lining up on the blocks from W. 15th St. to 19th St. between Seventh and Ninth Aves. well before noon. Residents had to present identification to get on their blocks.

To spare residents at least some inconvenience, floats were barred from running sound checks for longer than five minutes and were not supposed to turn on amplified sound until they stepped on to Seventh Ave. Chelsea Now walked the 10 staging blocks before 11 a.m. on June 24 and observed that floats were observing that rule, but by early afternoon when roughly 50,000 marchers had filled the blocks that discipline had evaporated and the sound was constant The last marchers left Chelsea at roughly 7 p.m.

HOP began planning the new route with internal discussions beginning in Dec. 2016. The group began talking to city agencies, including the NYPD, in Aug. 2017 and a final decision on the route was made by Jan. 2018.

Johnson, who is openly gay and now the City Council Speaker, first learned about it by seeing a post on Facebook. Erik Bottcher, Johnson’s chief of staff, opened the June 13 meeting by saying of the new route, “We don’t like it.”

Midway through the meeting, Bottcher took the floor again to note that Chelsea Now was in the room and expanded on his comments.

“Last month, the speaker called the mayor’s office and said ‘I want this route changed,’ ” Bottcher said, and added that he then went to a meeting with the mayor’s office. “At the conclusion of that meeting, I made it clear that there is going to be a different process for picking the route next year.”

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