Sunday, March 29, 2009

A day down the Shore

A steady stream of middle aged gamblers, smoky casino floors and a heavy mist that was certainly not conducive for a good hair day were among the many things I found on my trip to Atlantic City yesterday. I had never been to the beach side resort that has obviously seen better days, but it was truly wonderful to leave the city for at least a few hours.

I did not win the jackpot I had envisioned in my head. I did not meet lady luck. And I certainly (and fortunately) did not lose my shirt or anything else for that matter. I did, however, enjoy some good salt water taffy and breathe in some good ocean air for the first time in months. I honestly feel a bit recharged after turning off my cell phone and logging off my computer and those all too addictive social networking sites..., but now it's back to the grind.

Below is a video of the late March weather that did a number on my hair.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Hampshire House passes marriage bill

I'm on multiple deadlines this afternoon, but one quick and exciting news that came into my inbox earlier today is the New Hampshire House passed a bill that would extend marriage to same-sex couples.

Legislators voted 186-179 to send the proposed legislation to the state Senate. Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions since Jan. 2008, but it remains unclear as to whether Gov. John Lynch would sign the bill if it were to cross his desk.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas has said he plans to veto a bill to extend marriage to same-sex couples Montpelier lawmakers passed earlier this week. Lawmakers in Hawai'i and Maine are among those who have recently debated marriage for same-sex couples. And activists across the country continue to wait for the California Supreme Court to rule in the case that seeks to overturn Proposition 8.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Teen reportedly confesses to murder of ABC newsman

A teenager has reportedly confessed to murdering a popular radio newsman inside his Carroll Gardens apartment earlier this week.

The New York Daily News and other media outlets reported the 16-year-old boy confessed he murdered ABC News Radio anchor George Weber after the newsman reportedly placed an advertisement for rough sex on Craigslist. The teen reportedly stabbed Weber and attempted to cover up the crime.

Police found Weber dead inside his brownstone on Sunday. His ankles were bound with duct tape.

Weber's murder has stunned journalists and those who had known him or had listened to him on the radio over the years. His untimely death comes roughly two and a half years after four Brooklyn men lured Michael Sandy to a secluded beach along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn to rob him. A car struck and killed him as he attempted to flee.

The teen who allegedly murdered Weber remains in NYPD custody.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Schumer backs marriage, repeal of DOMA

The news U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer endorsed marriage for same-sex couples at a dinner organized by Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle and former ESPA co-chair Jeff Soref last night in Manhattan has spread like wildfire since New York Daily News reporter Liz Benjamin broke the story on her blog.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Assemblymembers Danny O'Donnell, Deborah Glick and Micah Kellner were among those who dined with Schumer at the Gramercy Tavern. Schumer's office told the Daily News in a statement "it's time" to support gays and lesbians as they seek the right to marry.

"Equality is something that has always been a hallmark of America and no group should be deprived of it. New York, which has always been at the forefront on issues of equality, is appropriately poised to take a lead on this issue," it said in a statement.

Schumer further indicated he would back a full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act for which he voted in 1996. This dinner may very well amount to a watershed moment both for LGBT politics in New York and around the country.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Sunday afternoon in Bushwick

It's a blissfully quiet Sunday afternoon here in Bushwick after a long and turbulent week. Spring officially sprang on Friday and children, their parents, skateboarders and others filled Maria Hernandez Park this afternoon as I walked home from the bank and other errands.

Attached is a video and other pictures to provide a sense of a typical Sunday afternoon in the neighborhood.

The relatively new bodega on Jefferson Street

A boarded up market on Flushing Avenue near the Life Café

A poster on Myrtle Avenue in support of Dominican President Leonel Fernández's re-election campaign last spring.

A new bus shelter near DeKalb and Wilson Avenues

Spring has sprung in Maria Hernandez Park

The Empire State Building from Irving Avenue between Jefferson and Troutman Streets

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pope Benedict claims condom use spreads HIV/AIDS

As a former Roman Catholic who left the faith nearly a decade ago, it remains extremely difficult for me to take almost anything Pope Benedict XVI says seriously. And his assertion the use of condoms actually facilitates the spread of HIV and AIDS simply borders on the ridiculous.

Benedict made his assertion as he flew to Cameroon in West Africa. Bloggers and HIV/AIDS service organizations around the world almost immediately (and rather predictably) railed against the Pope's comments. One can easily conclude they are based upon dogmatic teachings that are increasingly out-of-touch with the challenges of the modern world. And this reality includes the continued need to use practical and scientifically-proven methods to combat an epidemic that continues to inflict a far too heavy toll.

The last line in today's New York Times' editorial that examines the impact of Benedict's comments is perhaps summarizes the situation best. It reads it "seems irresponsible to blame condoms for making the epidemic worse." Indeed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day 2009

As the majority of New York prepares to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, a phone call from the man with whom I recently broke-up and a text message from my friend Adam in Boston have certainly put me into the Irish mood (of sorts) on this bright and sunny March 17.

I will almost certainly remain at my desk for most of today, but a myriad of Irish eyes will certainly shine upon New York today. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will attend a reception in honor of Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen tonight in Washington. The Irish Queers will hold their annual protest at the city's St. Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Avenue to draw attention to the Ancient Order of Hibernians' long-standing policy to exclude LGBT marchers from the defile. And countless others will patronize Irish pubs and other establishments as they revel in their Irish heritage (or at least pretend they hail from the Emerald Isle.)

A faltering economy and the murder of a policeman and two soldiers at the hands of a splinter group of Irish Republican Army dissidents earlier this month are among the concerns Irish and Northern Irish continue to confront, but St. Patrick's Day remains the one (albeit kitschy) time people across the world can pay tribute and honor this great island, it's people and its culture.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Boys (and Girls) of Brooklyn

Yes mom, there are indeed LGBT people who live, work and play in Brooklyn!

I simply could not resist the above lede for today's blog posting, but in all seriousness there are a lot of LGBT Brooklynites who live, work and play in Kings County. The BK has been my home for nearly five years, and I honestly cannot imagine living anywhere else at this time in my life.

My spontaneous love for Brooklyn stems from a really good meeting I had earlier today with the inspiration behind OutAboutBrooklyn, a new blog that hopes to let boys and girls who live in the borough know about LGBT-owned and operated bars, clubs and other businesses and those that are friendly to our pink brothers and sisters. The site, which went live last month, also seeks to connect LGBT Brooklynites to each other without crossing the East River into the city.

The 718 (or at least the portion of the area code that comprises Kings County) remains one of the city's most attractive and diverse boroughs in which to live and play. And there is certainly much more in the borough than Williamsburg hipsters, Park Slope lesbians and Ikea in Red Hook... and OutAboutBrooklyn may emerge as one of the places at which LGBT New Yorkers, their friends and others can discover why Brooklynites arguably love their beloved borough...

Friday, March 13, 2009

West Village arrests underscore long-standing tensions between residents, LGBT youth

As the weather continues to grow warmer, more LGBT youth will certainly descend upon the Christopher Street Pier and the adjacent West Village. This seasonal influx, however, leaves some local residents concerned as they continue to contend with what they say is an increase in crime, vandalism and other things they maintain diminish their quality of life.

The arrest of two transgender teenagers earlier this month in connection with a string of purse snatchings and credit card thefts outside an exclusive apartment building on the corner of Christopher and Greenwich Streets only heightens these concerns as I reported in EDGE New York yesterday. Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment (FIERCE) continues to call for a 24-hour LGBT center on Pier 40, but some of the young people with whom I spoke on the pier last Saturday conceded some of their friends do indeed cause unnecessary problems for local residents.

This story will certainly continue to unfold as it has done for years, but attached is the link to the article I posted.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spain marks anniversary of Madrid train bombings

Family members of the 191 people killed in the Madrid train bombings placed flowers, wreaths and other tributes to mark the fifth anniversary of the attacks.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose party came to power three days after the March 11, 2004, bombings, led a moment of silence inside Parliament.

Ten bombs that had been hidden in backpacks exploded within minutes on four crowded commuter trains that had been en route to Madrid during the morning rush hour. Then outgoing Prime Minister José María Aznar initially blamed the Basque separatist group ETA, but a Spanish judge later indicted more than two dozen men of Middle Eastern and North African descent.

The attacks, which injured 1,800 people, remain Europe's most deadly act of terrorism. And 11-M also carries a personal connection.

I was in Spain less than a week after the attacks to visit friends whom I had met in Granada the previous year. The country was clearly in mourning as the continued broadcast of memorials and other commemorations on Spanish television--and even on the Madrid subway--indicated. Some of my friends initially expressed concern over people of Arab and Middle Eastern descent who lived in the country, but I found time and time again the Spanish people refused to allow these atrocities to prevent them from living their lives... and for my friends and I this defiance meant a beautiful weekend partying beneath the Alhambra in Granada and relaxing in the countryside.

A sea of red candles paid tribute to the victims of the bombings inside Atocha station in the heart of Madrid [March 23, 2004 - photo by Michael K. Lavers]

A lesson my insightful father has always instilled in me is a terrorist's most effective weapon is fear. And the best way to counter their intentions is to remain defiant of it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Yorkers demand justice for gay couple murdered in Spain

Photo courtesy of Andrés Duque

Roughly two dozen people gathered outside the Spanish consulate in Manhattan on Saturday to protest the acquittal of a man who confessed he stabbed a gay couple to death inside their apartment before he set it on fire.

Jacobo Piñeiro Rial stabbed Isaac Ali Dani Peréz Triviño, 27, and his boyfriend Julio Anderson Luciano, 32, to death inside their apartment in the Galician city of Vigo on Jan. 13, 2006. Blog and media reports Rial stabbed the couple 57 times before he took a shower, threw clothes on the floor and eventually lit the apartment on fire to cover up the crime.

Rial reportedly confessed to a bartender he murdered the two men after a television station broadcast a bulletin about the murder and fire. Police arrested him two days later.

Rial's lawyer told a Galician jury his client merely defended himself after Luciano threatened him with a knife after he refused to have sex with him. Rial's counsel further argued Triviñio also threatened his client with a knife. And he also contended a two-day alcohol and cocaine binge had impaired Rial's judgment.

The jury convicted Rial for setting fire to the couple's apartment. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but Triviñio's mother, who lived with her son and Luciano, described the verdict as "homophobic, racist and brainless."

The Manhattan demonstration coincided with several that took place in Spain in response to Rial's acquittal. More than 1,000 people took to the streets of Vigo on Saturday to express their outrage over the jury's decision. Similar protests also took place in Barcelona, the Basque Country and Madrid.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A pre-spring tease titillates NYC

Aside from drinking way too much at a friend's birthday party on Saturday night, this weekend (and especially its pre-spring tease) was certainly an enjoyable one.

The deepening recession, a steady stream of colds and of course the cold weather have made this winter particularly tough, but the 70 degree weather that graced the city on Saturday was a welcome sign spring is nearly here. I spent the afternoon at the Christopher Street Pier working on a story on the continued tension between LGBT youth who traditionally hang out there and people who live in the adjacent West Village. I did take some time, however, to simply stroll along the pier and even work on my tan a bit along with hundreds of other New Yorkers who certainly had the same idea.

The city literally comes alive on the first warm day of the season and people can finally leave their coats and scarves at home. I spent Friday afternoon in the Meatpacking District and Chelsea and people seemed almost gleeful when the sun poked through the clouds. The birds appeared to chirp even louder. New Yorkers dined al fresco. And I even bought myself flowers at a corner store on Eighth Avenue. What a pre-spring weekend it was!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gay resorts remain cautiously optimistic in spite of recession

As the California Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in the lawsuit that challenges Proposition 8's passage last November and the snow from this week's storm begins to melt, my thoughts have frankly begun to turn to another summer on Fire Island. The beach and other gay resorts across the country will almost certainly continue to feel the effects of the deepening recession, but officials in these communities expressed cautious optimism they will have a profitable summer in spite of the economic crisis.

Attached is the article for EDGE New York that interviews Fire Island business owners and realtors. An EDGE New England article focuses on Provincetown and a second story posted on both EDGE Philadelphia and EDGE Washington examines the situation in Rehoboth Beach.

Fire Island officials remain optimistic in spite of recession
EDGE New York/EDGE Fire Island
March 5, 2009

As the deepening recession continues to exert an ever-steep toll across the country, Fire Island business and property owners remain optimistic they will have a profitable summer.

Cherry Grove Property Owners Association president Larry Lane said he expects Long Islanders and others from New York and nearby suburbs will find Fire Island an attractive place to day-trip or vacation as they continue to spend less money.

"You’ve got a place that’s 20 minutes from Long Island that you feel you’ve traveled hours to an exotic island," he said.

Lane further noted local real estate brokers have already reported brisk business. Fire Island Pines realtor Jon Wilner told EDGE in a recent interview his rentals are already higher than last season. He added he feels optimistic people will continue to visit the tony hamlet in spite of the ever-ominous economic outlook.

"It’s a gay environment," Wilner said. "It’s a very different kind of community."

Adam Weaver, marketing director for Fire Island Pines Operations, which operates the Pavilion and the majority of other businesses around the harbor, echoed Lane who stressed the beach’s proximity to New York will continue to draw visitors.

"For us, it’s the same price to come out because [people] take the train out; they know how much they will spend," he said.

A survey conducted by the San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc., last September found only 31 percent of respondents decreased their overall travel. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Provincetown and Washington were also among the top 20 travel destinations for LGBT travelers.

Community Marketing senior projects director David Paisley said he feels Fire Island and other gay resort destinations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic should fare better than Hawai’i, New Orleans and other geographically isolated destinations because of their proximity to cities along the I-95 corridor. He further argued local officials should focus their advertising and outreach budgets in those markets and capitalize upon those travelers who may want to vacation closer to home this summer than in previous years.

"The key for these destinations is local outreach," he said. "They have millions of millions of customers who are a car or train ride away."

Pink Banana Media president Matt Skallerud added he feels local businesses should turn to the Internet-and in particular Facebook, Twitter and other social networking Web sites and blogs, to draw potential customers and patrons into their establishments. He said he feels the recession has made these new marketing techniques more attractive as companies continue to cut their advertising budgets.

"You can blog about a new restaurant opening and events and integrate that with photos," Skallerud said. "You’re finding destinations that do that are keeping in the forefront of people’s minds."

FIPO will use both Facebook and Twitter this summer to let users know who is spinning at their bars and clubs and parties and other information. Weaver added DJ Tony Moran is among those already scheduled to spin on the beach this summer.

"We’re not cutting back on our entertainment," Weaver said. "We’re going to throw the same parties we always throw. We’re ready for the boys to come. I think it will be a fun summer."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New York State Senate launches web cast

One can almost certainly conclude without a shadow of a doubt there remains a need for long overdue transparency in the partisan morass that is Albany. The political triumvirate of Gov. David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [D-Manhattan] and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith [D-St. Albans] remains at the helm of what observers routinely describe as the country's most inefficient and dysfunctional state government, but the state Senate's new Web cast will hopefully shed some light onto what actually happens (or doesn't happen) at the state capital.

A source from Smith's office told Boy in Bushwick the 15-minute videos will allow the public "to receive a snapshot of senate-related news--instead of navigating to 62 different member sites." Government transparency? Perhaps, but anything that sheds some light onto how Albany works (or doesn't work) will almost certainly be a good thing for New Yorkers who arguably remain in the dark about how their elected officials advocate (or fail to advocate) on their behalf.

One New York - Update from New York State Senate on Vimeo.

One New York - Update from New York State Senate on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A March snow falls in Brooklyn

The calendar may indicate spring is less than three weeks away, but the roughly 10 inches of snow that blanketed Brooklyn yesterday seems to indicate otherwise. Snow is an unfortunate part of life in my native New Hampshire, but that reality doesn't necessarily mean I have to like the white stuff so late in the season... and perhaps us New Yorkers are simply a bunch of wimps.

At any rate, here are some pictures of the storm's aftermath I took late yesterday afternoon around my neighborhood.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Suspect in beating death of Ecuadorian immigrant claims self-defense

I've been away from the blog for a few days, but the latest revelation to emerge in the beating death of Ecuadorian immigrant José Sucuzhañay in Bushwick last December is one of the two suspects arrested in connection with the crime has claimed self-defense.

New York Police Department officers arrested Keith Phoenix in Yonkers less than two days after they took Hakim Scott into custody, but Phoenix reportedly told detectives he acted in self-defense after he claimed Sucuzhañay and his brother provoked a fight as they walked home from a nearby bar.

Phoenix's lawyer, Jay H. Schwitzman, told reporters outside Brooklyn Criminal Court yesterday his client went to break-up a fight between Scott and Sucuzhañay after one of the brothers kicked the door of Phoenix's SUV. Schwitzman also denied Sucuzhañay's death is an anti-gay hate crime.

Phoenix and Scott allegedly used anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs as they beat Sucuzhañay with a baseball bat and bottles as he and his brother Romel walked arm-in-arm near the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place on Dec. 7. Sucuzhañay died in a Queens hospital five days later, and his death sparked widespread outrage across New York.

An NYPD spokesperson categorically denied Phoenix's claims. Both Phoenix and Scott face a charge of second degree murder as a hate crime.