Pride Survival Guide

David Sokol

Gay pride is in full swing throughout New York City. Marches have already welcomed thousands of participants and viewers in Jackson Heights, Queens, as well as in Staten Island’s St. George neighborhood, and City residents and tourists are gearing up for even more events throughout the five boroughs. The month culminates with Pride Week (June 20–28), and organizers of its myriad happenings are expecting unprecedented turnouts. In just one example, Dennis Spafford, a spokesperson for Heritage of Pride—the 25-year-old not-for-profit that organizes the epic NYC LGBT Pride March and other fetes—says his colleagues are forecasting 1.5 million attendees on June 28, a 50 percent jump from previous years.

The 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the fight for gay marriage rights and other political touchpoints like "don’t ask, don’t tell" are fueling this upsurge. Not coincidentally, this year’s Pride Week offers seemingly countless opportunities for observing LGBT history, exercising political muscle and looking inward. Instead of landing on Father’s Day (it normally takes place on a Sunday), Heritage of Pride’s NYC LGBT Pride Rally will be on June 20, to raise its profile; the Gay Liberation Front reunites at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center on June 25; local organizations are planning gay marriage advocacy campaigns; and on June 24, Harlem One Stop will host an interfaith service at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine that will commemorate the Stonewall anniversary and feature the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus as well as other guest stars.

Pride Week is famous for fun, too, and this year offers no shortage of it. LGBT parents have several family gatherings to choose from, while kids of all ages should keep an eye out for Doug Quint’s newly launched Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. And, of course, there are the throbbing Rapture on the River and Dance on the Pier parties; both are perennial favorites, and the Dance on the Pier is so popular that admission is not sold at the event itself.

Remembering to buy tickets in advance is just one insider tip that will come in handy for newcomers to Pride Week. asked several high-ranking members of New York’s LGBT community for additional advice. Here are their recommendations for surviving and thriving during Pride Week.

Dennis Spafford, spokesperson, Heritage of Pride
• Wear comfortable shoes for the Pride March. You’ll be standing on concrete for a long time. Bring water, sunblock, sunglasses, hats—all those very essential items for being out in the sun.
• Parking is tough. Use public transportation.
• The more heavily crowded viewing spots are near Rockefeller Center and below 14th Street. If you want to check out the parade from any of those places, get there early, and keep in mind that you won’t have access from Fifth Avenue.
• Be positive and courteous, and respectful of the New York Police Department’s directions. And keep in mind that if you do want to march at the last minute, the police won’t let you cross the barricades. You’ll have to enter at 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
• Check Heritage of Pride’s annual Official New York City Pride Guide for additional recommendations.

Ector Simpson, director of cultural programs, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (aka "the Center")
• If you want a clear view of the Pride March, any spot above 34th Street will be easier to navigate. And figure out where your public restrooms are. There are more public bathrooms west of Fifth Avenue than there are east.
• Especially this year, keep in mind why we are here. Before this was a parade, it was a march about our rights and our right to be. The Center is working on an exhibit called Stonewall: 40th Anniversary, which you can call a primer on Stonewall. It runs through September 4 at the Center, but on the day of the march we will hang the exhibit’s images in shop windows along Christopher Street.

Angeline Acain, publisher/editor of Gay Parent magazine
• Line up and march with Center Kids, Center Families, the Center’s family support group. Be sure to make some signs in advance. There are always a ton of vendors from which you can purchase little rainbow flags for your kids to wave.
• Center Kids also holds an annual summer picnic; it will be held on the playground at Greenwich Village’s Church of St. Luke in the Fields. The picnic provides games, crafts and food.
• For families with older kids, I recommend getting in touch with COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere). The New York chapter is marching this year with its first-ever float.

Cathy Renna, spokesperson for SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders)
• SAGE is working to support seniors to make the march and related events accessible and comfortable. It provides trolleys for marchers as well as refreshments. Gather at the Center at 9:30 that Sunday morning; trolleys will leave for the staging area at 10:30. A post-parade cooldown will be held at the Center. There’s a ton of positive feedback for seniors in our community. The vast majority of events are very accessible, and crowds are always friendly and respectful.