OPINION: The problem with Pride

BY ELISSA STEIN | Pride in New York City can be a day of beauty, of rainbows, of glitter, of hand holding, of love. But what used to be a commemoration of the Stonewall protests and march has grown into a bloated, corporate-driven event, a seemingly never-ending day of claustrophobic sidewalks, mounds of garbage, earsplitting sound systems, and a neighborhood held hostage by countless barricades and a parade that goes on far too long.

Elissa Stein.

Kicking off Sunday at noon, the Heritage of Pride March started off down Fifth Ave., headed west at Eighth St., then went along Christopher St., and then north on Seventh Ave. In doing so, it created an enclosed trap — blocks constricted by festivities on either side, which left Sixth Ave. as a free-for-all for hours and hours and even more hours. Late into the night, floats, trucks, cars and marchers were still jam-packed along lower Fifth Ave. with the parade route still stretching far out in front of them.

Major League Baseball, Uber, M&Ms, Jet Blue, Smirnoff Vodka, Polaroid, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, an entertainment union, the National Hockey League, countless churches and more made their way Downtown after 9:30 p.m. Accompanying them were street-level volunteers, walking, dancing and enthusiastically distributing logo-stamped giveaways, including candy, sunglasses holders, MetroCard cases, ID lanyards, bandanas, stickers, light-up necklaces, paper fans and posters, to the few bystanders remaining on sidewalks. Too many of those sponsored products, along with cups, confetti, broken props, costumes and more, ended up discarded on the street, piled high against curbs, stashed on steps and in doorways as the day/night went on.

The noise level of sponsored floats, laden with even more volunteers, was too often deafening. There were so many, it seems, the floats couldn’t be spaced far enough apart, and so sponsors cranked up their individual sound systems to drown out everyone else; at times, it was impossible to hear people standing close by on the sidelines. All this, late into the night, through a mostly residential neighborhood.

The hard work of everyone who worked to keep the streets safe and then returned them to status quo after the hordes went home is much appreciated. Going forward, though, someone needs to be the grown-up in the room and cap the number of participants, set a time limit, and take affected neighborhoods and communities into consideration. For an event that should be about inclusiveness, the inevitable deluge now borders on abuse. Local residents and streets should not be subjected to this level of noise pollution, barricading and destruction. Both parade organizers and elected officials should take a hard look at the havoc this event wreaks and figure out what they can do to prevent it from happening again.

Stein is a Village resident, writer, consultant and community activist.

18 Responses to OPINION: The problem with Pride

  1. Really? Was one day of inconvenience really that unbearable? Let's focus on the positive for once. There's enough negativity in the world.

  2. William Thomas

    OMG don't NIMBY Pride

  3. Acceptance ain't all it's cracked up to be, but they're here, they're queer, so get used to cleaning up after them, like we do for all the other groups. All things being equal now, no one can claim they're doing right by our environment, not even the gays.

    • The streets were spotless by sunrise the next morning. Come on, people!

      • Yes, because others cleaned up after the parade goers, just like all the other parades, so please don't make it seem like they cleaned up after themselves. Come on, yourself!

  4. This is not politically correct,
    but as a native NYer, I agree with your sentiments.
    The size and scale shows too much hubris.
    Scale it down to 1 day, just like other groups celebrate it.

  5. I agree with this.

    There's nothing wrong with some limits.

    Especially as the time of the parade is endless. And it is corporate pandering to an extreme.

    Why not move it to an area of midtown west, where it is more appropriate for a summer Sunday?

  6. You couldn't be more right! Living near Fifth Ave. and 8th St, I've seen it get more and more repulsive over the years. The level of filth was mind-boggling. What's discarded on Fifth Ave. certainly isn't something that would inspire pride. It makes the Santa event, wherein the Village becomes a maelstrom of drunken Santas, look perfectly benign.

  7. darlene nation

    of course, the Queer Liberation (alternative) March has everything the other one didn't… true feeling, encouraging bystanders to join in, a little song, a lot of heart. while i spotted ringers to get the crowd excited at the Heritage march, none of that cheerleading was necessary at the alternative march… people responded or didn't –as they were moved…
    and they were moved…. holding signs also, even when not marching along… a wrap-up on the radio offered a perspective from someone who felt a camaraderie when her corporate colleagues marched along with her… but, yes let's face it…a 13 hour march is rather extreme

    • I marched, and sang, in the QLM – and what was most moving to me is that EVERYONE was welcome to march. You didn't have to be part of a group or to have pre-registered or supporting a corporation – if you were moved or inspired to join you could jump right in.

    • Agreed! The Queer Liberation March was wonderful. That should be the template for all prides moving forward. The moments of silence along the route were incredibly moving. What a wonderful commemoration of the original march. The Pride Parade has become a free advertising event for corporations.

  8. The organizers of the Pride Parade, Heritage of Pride, say it has to corporate run because it is so expensive to run. They say they believe in helping corporations change from within. When asked on The NYT Daily Podcast, (June 29) what changes have occurred in said corporations, Kathy Rena, spokesperson for Heritage of Pride, had nothing to say. It was quite a moment. The Pride Parade bears little resemblance to the early Pride marches that followed the Stonewall riots. People are penned in, wait for hours to be let into the parade. This year the few activist groups participating like Gays Against Guns waited over 3 hours past their appointed start time before they could start. Spectators are penned off and can’t enter the parade, and the crowd watches corporate float after float after float waiting to get some swag.

    By contrast, Reclaim Pride organized an alternative Queer Liberation March on the same day. It started on time, it was fiercely political, it was joyous, it was celebratory. People could join and leave and rejoin as they pleased. There was no corporate presence whatever. Instead the focus was on people: trans people, gay people, lesbians, non binary people, people with disabilities, people of all ages, black people, people of color. And protest: queer and trans people murdered and attacked in this country and all over the world, protest against gun violence, and so much more. It felt like the early marches, and it felt new.

  9. We've just banned billboards on barges on our rivers. Let's stop letting commercial groups use our LGBT and our ethnic parades as an advertising medium. If they REALLY want to support the groups staging the parades, let them hold up a banner on the sidelines or get listed in a program for the event. But taking up all that space and time with their tacky walking and squawking ads is intolerable and stretched this "Pride" parade into a 12 1/2 hour ordeal. My first Christopher Street Liberation Day march was in 1974 and it was joyous and I have attended every one since until this year. In time, however, the march turned this unrecognizable parade to nowhere. Time for the City to step in and set limits on commercial exploitation of these events. Thank goodness for Reclaim Pride–a true commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion.

    • Mike Thomas-Faria

      Why not just let the corporate sponsors have banners displayed along the barricades on the parade route? No floats or walkers. You know, like they do at sporting events. It would cut down on SOME of the size and still get the message out. Also, Andy, I'm sure you agree that corporate participants should be vetted. Do they also donate to anti-lgbt politicians? If so, no go.

  10. Kevin P Coogan

    The parade needs to be better organized. I was planning to march with Lavendar and Green and spent most of Sunday afternoon waiting to march on 30th Street. The appointed time was 1:00. At 4:50, one of the marshalls said we would probably step off at 5:30. This was after 2:30, then 3:15, then…. You get the idea, Finally, I had to leave because I was meeting my husband and frineds on a Pride dinner cruise at Chelsea Piers. Granted, corporate sponsors pick up large parts of the bill, but other parades do not have nearly this much corpoarte presence. A friend from Dignity, which had a 5:00 stepoff time, did not begin to march until 8:00.

  11. I spent my time in the Pride parade as a member of a marching band that spent most of its playing time sandwiched between the sound systems of The Meatball Shop and Pepsi. We continuously struggled just to hear ourselves. Moreover, the route was so long that I couldn’t keep playing by the last 10+ blocks, just like last year.

    Of course, the spectators were joyous and couldn’t be more appreciative, but I’m wondering if my day would have more productive if I’d just helped out with the Queer Liberation March all day instead.

  12. I agree – the HOP march is bloated and overlong. And its main purpose is as a corporate marketing platform! Ban all the corporate floats and just let community groups march – that will leave it at well under 6 hours, and return it to its original purpose – to fight for LGBTQ+ rights!

  13. The HOP parade is like going to one of those parties where the music is so loud you can't talk to one another, everyone is telepathically distant because they're high on coke, meth, whiskey, whatever, and the gaiety is forced and kinda desperate. The Queer Liberation March is, on the other hand, gleeful, joyous, exciting, authentic, political and people can jump in and out wherever they please. We jump around and talk to each other, cross-pollinate each other's groups, have TWO pauses for moments of silence to remember our loved ones who have died, and have this clean feeling, this marvelous unstained atmosphere that is free of any possibility that we are being used as marketing tools for some corporate demographic.

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