Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Transgender woman found murdered in Queens apartment

As I listen to a segment on the Brian Lehrer Show about employment discrimination against transgender New Yorkers, news about a trans woman’s murder inside her Queens apartment provides another sobering reminder this community remains particularly vulnerable.

The Daily News reported Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar’s friends found her naked body on her bed in her apartment on 62nd Street in Glendale yesterday afternoon. Police said the victim had not been heard from since Friday.

Some Daily News readers were quick to express their own transphobic attitudes, and even blame Gonzalez-Andujar for her own murder. One person, however, was thankfully quick to counter these ridiculous assertions.

“Amanda is someone’s daughter, cousin, niece, aunt, friend and sister,” “mizzmelodie” wrote.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ricky Martin's coming out resonates outside the United States

My story on how Ricky Martin's coming out could prove a watershed moment for LGBT Latinos has already received nearly 11,000 hits on the EDGE network, but here's the story for those who may want to read it.

Ricky Martin's coming out could prove a "watershed moment" for LGBT Puerto Ricans
EDGE on the Net
March 30, 2010

Even though Ricky Martin’s sexual orientation was not a very well-kept secret, his decision to come out could prove to be a watershed moment for LGBT Puerto Ricans.

Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s described yesterday’s announcement as "a glorious day for the Puerto Rican LGBT communities."

"He is the biggest star from Latin America and from Puerto Rico to come out; it’s a huge deal," he told EDGE. "It is a watershed moment."

Jarrett T. Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, agreed.

"His decision to model this kind of openness and honesty can lead to greater acceptance for countless gay people in the [United States,] in Latin America and worldwide," he said.

Puerto Rican newspapers and other media outlets quickly posted stories to their Web sites once Martin came out on his Web site on Monday, March 29. El Nuevo Día proclaimed "Ricky Martin confesses his homosexuality," while Primera Hora announced "Ricky Martin accepts his homosexuality." Both publications posted a series of reactions from celebrities and others around the world to the news. And Nuevo Dia interviewed Martin’s brother.

"He is my brother, if he is happy, I will also be happy," Eric Martin said.

Not everyone shared the younger Martin’s acceptance.

"Widelia" commented under a Primera Hora story people "would not be talking so much about this" if "homosexuality were normal." "Eduardo" questioned why Martin’s coming out has received so much attention, but other Primera Hora readers applauded his decision.

"Ricky Martin will be the same Ricky Martin to me, homosexual or not," "Smoochy" wrote. "This does not change the fact he is a good person and always has been. I applaud (his decision) to declare (his homosexuality) publicly, for his personal satisfaction in the moment in which he decided to do it."

Singer Alejandro Sanz, Daddy Yankee, blogger Perez Hilton, Juanes, journalist María Celeste Arrarás and other celebrities quickly praised Martin’s decision.

"One more time, Ricky Martin is an example of bravery, courage and determination," Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañón said in a statement posted on Primera Hora’s Web site.

Martin described himself as a human rights activist in an op-ed Nuevo Día published in December in response to gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s brutal murder. He made no mention of his own sexual orientation, but Serrano told EDGE he hopes Martin will use his celebrity to advance LGBT rights in his homeland.

"But for today, we celebrate that Ricky is one of us."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ricky Martin comes out

Putting to rest consistent rumors about his sexual orientation, Ricky Martin announced on his blog earlier today he is "a fortunate homosexual man."

"I am very blessed to be who I am," the Puerto Rican singer wrote.

Martin spoke out against Jorge Steven López Mercado's death in an op-ed el Nuevo Dia published on Dec. 20. And in what appears to have been a potential prelude to his own personal torment, he wrote mere tolerance of those who are different is simply not enough.

"If we accept each other, humanity will come together," Martin said.

Congratulations Ricky!

Suicide bombers target Moscow subway system

Two female suicide bombers killed at least 38 people and wounded more than 100 others earlier today when they detonated explosives on the Moscow subway at the height of rush hour.

The first blast occurred in the Lubyanka station shortly before 8 a.m., and the second destroyed a subway car near the Park Kultury station. The Moscow Times speculated Russian officials would most likely attribute the attacks to Islamist insurgents who continue to operate in the North Caucasus region. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin quickly condemned the bombings.

"A crime that is terrible in its consequences and heinous in its manner has been committed," he said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority here in New York has beefed up security in response to the Moscow bombings, but waking up to this news brought me back to the morning of March 11, 2004 and how I found out terrorists had killed 191 people on Madrid commuter trains. The threat of terrorism here in the five boroughs periodically crosses my mind, especially if authorities thwart a plot against the subway system or a high profile landmark. That said, however, a terrorist's most effective weapon remains fear. And the best way to counter it is to remain defiant of it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sucuzhañay case moves towards trial

It has been more than 16 months since Ecuadorian immigrant José Sucuzhañay’s murder, but the case against the two men who allegedly beat him to death on a Bushwick street corner in Dec. 2008 continues to move forward.

A Brooklyn judge will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 31, to determine whether prosecutors and defense lawyers are ready to go to trial. Jury selection could begin next month. And the Sucuzhañay family said it expects the trial to begin sometime in May.

Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix allegedly shouted anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs as they beat Sucuzhañay with a baseball bat and broken bottles as he and his brother Romel walked arm and arm near the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place on Dec. 7, 2008. His death came roughly a month after Jeffrey Conroy allegedly stabbed Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero to death at a Patchogue train station.

Lucero’s brother Joselo was among the hundreds of people who marched down Myrtle Avenue after Sucuzhañay’s murder to demand justice.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Passage of health care reform is personal

It’s rather ironic I continue to suffer from spring allergies in the wake of last night’s health care reform vote, but it was certainly a breathtaking thing to watch.

Partisan-inspired rhetoric, patriotic speeches, homophobic and racist slurs and ludicrous predictions, such as a 20-year-old Pittsburgh man’s claim on C-SPAN this bill would lead to the president “telling people when to sleep,” simply fail to capture the fact this issue remains intensely personal for so many people in the country. I have not had health insurance since Feb. 2007. And while I remain healthy--I’ve even lost 35 pounds and lost more than three inches on my waist in the last six months due to regular exercise, a largely Mediterranean diet and an all-around healthier lifestyle--a sudden illness or injury would instantly prove financially catastrophic.

This bill almost certainly does not go far enough to ensure all Americans have access to quality and affordable health care, but last night’s vote is a historic step towards that goal.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fire Island 2010

The first trip back to Fire Island each year always proves exciting, and our trip today was certainly no different.

Koitz and I were among the nearly three dozen or so people who took the 11 a.m. ferry from Sayville. And a handful of realtors, year-round residents, home owners and even U.S. Census takers greeted the boat as it arrived in Cherry Grove.

A cool breeze had already begun to blow off the Atlantic, but a brilliant blue sky provided the perfect day to survey the beach after the long and snowy winter. The beach in Cherry Grove stood up quite well to the several nor'easters that battered the coast over the last few months. Sections of the beach east of Fisherman's Path in the Fire Island Pines suffered some serious erosion. And the Great South Bay continued the area immediately east of Heaven n' Earth in the Grove.

Below are some pictures and two videos from today.

On the steps of Island Breeze in Cherry Grove.

This sign speaks a thousand words!

A water tank or boiler somehow became lodged in the swamp between Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines.

Businesses along the Fire Island Pines harbor.

Beach erosion near Fisherman's Walk in the Fire Island Pines.

The ferry to Sayville pulls into the Fire Island Pines.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Will civil disobedience spur action on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”

News of Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo’s arrest outside the White House yesterday afternoon spread quickly through the blogosphere and social networking sites, but their tactics and timing raise some questions.

Authorities arrested Choi and Pietrangelo after they handcuffed themselves to the gates of the White House as a way to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Federal police officers also took activist Robin McGehee into custody after she reportedly helped Choi and Pietrangelo handcuff themselves to the perimeter.

This act of civil disobedience certainly reminds the American people and their legislators DADT remains an important issue for some, but will it actually change additional hearts and minds? Health care reform, job creation and other bread and butter issues continue to dominate the agenda on Capitol Hill. And while Choi and Pietrangelo should be applauded for their impassioned efforts to allow gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military, it remains doubtful their decision to chain themselves to the White House fence will generate anything more than a series of dramatic visuals and reactionary press releases and pro-DADT repeal statements.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A late-night L train state of mind

A late-night stream of consciousness from the Sixth Avenue subway station.

Fourteen minutes until the Brooklyn-bound L train departs the Sixth Avenue station. More than a few people enjoyed one too many green beers on St. Patrick's Day, but it was a gorgeous March day in New York with a deep cerulean sky, a slight breeze and temperatures in the mid-60s. Simply splendid!

So why do people wear sunglasses at 2:30 a.m.? It looks like the Hookie Awards (or something) just wrapped up at some venue in the Village, but I'm honestly unsure why Alixandria's former friend into whom I ran went on and on about the New World Order and how the Bush administration deliberately destroyed the World Trade Center. I honestly forgot his name, but this truly bizarre encounter reminds me how small a city with eight million people can actually be.

There are now seven minutes until the Brooklyn-bound L train departs the station. Sexually-charged couples, a handful of homeless men and a journalist scribbling thoughts down on a $1 legal pad are among those on the platform. Watching the drunk people is certainly entertaining, but it is just another night in the big city.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Queens voter: Monserrate is not a good example to our children

He is not a good example for our children.

Queens voter Pedro Duran provided one of the innumerable takeaways from former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate's failed campaign to regain his seat in the 13th State Senatorial District's special election. State Assemblyman José Peralta garnered 66 percent of the vote, compared to the 27 percent Monserrate and 7 percent administrative law judge Robert Beltrani received.

A judge convicted Monserrate last October of misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend Karla Giraldo in his Jackson Heights apartment in Dec. 2008. Giraldo urged area voters in a video she posted to YouTube to support her boyfriend.

This plea thankfully fell on deaf ears.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Will special election end the Monserrate spectacle?

As voters in the 13th Senatorial District go to the polls today, the circus that continues to surround former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate's delusional campaign against state Assemblymember José Peralta remains a sad spectacle that further tarnishes New York State politics.

Boy in Bushwick
has posted several blogs in recent weeks about Monserrate and the circumstances that led to his expulsion from the state Senate last month, but Andrés Duque captures the events that lead up to this moment perfectly on his post "So, Hiram Monserrate walks into a gay bar... (or why I will vote against him today.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Has Haiti faded from the world's collective consciousness?

As the world attention seems to remain focused on the massive earthquake that rattled Chile nearly two weeks ago, an editorial in today’s New York Times provided a stark reminder the Haitian people continue to endure unimaginable suffering.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas on Jan. 12. More than 200,000 people died in the catastrophe, and the earthquake left more than an estimated 1 million Haitians homeless.

I opined on Feb. 1 that Haiti should not fade from the headlines.’s homepage had a link this morning to a story about a disfigured girl who cannot leave the country. The British Broadcasting Corporation has a story titled “Haiti aid still arriving two months on” on its America’s page. And a Los Angeles Times headline reads “Haiti quake response largely a success.”

One can certainly argue the Chilean earthquake has caused the collective world to forget the fact another country, which had far less resources with which to begin, remains on its knees two months after a natural disaster exacerbated a long-standing humanitarian catastrophe. Haiti will hopefully emerge from this devastation, but the world must not forget the millions of people in the poverty-scarred country who continue to endure unimaginable suffering.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cuban journalist on hunger strike reportedly unconscious in hospital

A Cuban journalist who has been on a hunger strike for more than two weeks is reportedly unconscious in a hospital.

Blogger Yoaní Sánchez tweeted earlier this afternoon Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas is in Hospital Universitario Arnaldo Milian Castro in the provincial city of Santa Clara. Convivencia tweeted Fariñas is suffering from hypovolemic and hypoglycemic shock.

Fariñas began his hunger strike 16 days ago to protest dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death. The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly earlier today to condemn Cuba for Zapata’s “cruel and avoidable” death in prison on Feb. 23. Fariñas himself told the British Broadcasting Corporation he is “ready to die.”

The Miami Herald reported earlier this month Fariñas has gone on hunger strike more than 20 times since 1995.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NYPD investigates possible anti-gay attack in Brooklyn

The New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force continues to investigate an assault against a 22-year-old man in Carroll Gardens in which his alleged assailants used anti-gay slurs.

Fox 5 and other local media outlets reported last night five men attacked the man shortly after midnight on March 2 near the corner of Luquer Street and Hamilton Avenue. Fox 5 reported the man suffered injuries to his head and face.

"I was appalled and sickened to learn of last week's anti-LGBT hate crime in Carroll Gardens," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement her office released last night. "New York City's greatest strength is our diversity. All New Yorkers should be free to walk our streets without fear of being attacked for who they are or who they are perceived to be."

City Councilmember Brad Lander [D-Park Slope] also condemned the reported attack, but this incident is the latest in a series of incidents that highlight all too well the fact anti-LGBT attacks remain a serious problem in the five boroughs and elsewhere.

Jorge Steven López Mercado, José Sucuzhañay, Jack Price, LaTeisha Green and Mario Vega are among those on whom I have unfortunately had to report over the last year. This coverage remains an emotional challenge, but it is truly unfortunate -- and quite frankly tiring -- to have to report on yet another anti-LGBT attack.

Enough is truly enough!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Paterson keeps up appearances

Embattled Gov. David Paterson did not step-down on Friday as this blogger and several others had speculated, and his schedule today clearly sends a powerful message to those who continue to urge him to resign.

Paterson is scheduled to hold a forum on the budget at Brooklyn Borough Hall later this morning. The governor is slated to speak at a symposium on the proposed Sugared Beverage Tax in Albany this afternoon before he meets with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and members of the New York State Catholic Conference in the Capitol at 3 p.m. Paterson is also scheduled to attend the Irish Legislators Society's annual Legislators' Dinner at the Capital District Irish Cultural Center.

A governor's schedule is not normally newsworthy, but it certainly indicates Paterson is doing everything he can to shift focus away from his ongoing travails. The fact remains, however, the concurrent scandals in which he finds himself are the story. And his eventual resignation remains almost certainly inevitable.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Riding the J Train

The oft-maligned J train certainly doesn't garner the affection of those who take it into Manhattan every day, but this line does, however, afford some of the best views of the city as it passes over the Williamsburg Bridge. Here are two clips I shot yesterday afternoon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

New York awaits Paterson's possible resignation

Will (and when will) embattled Gov. David Paterson resign?

Peter Kauffmann's resignation only heightened speculation the governor would step-down. And an Albany source told Boy in Bushwick in an e-mail at 3:30 yesterday afternoon Paterson's resignation would happen within the hour. It obviously didn't materialize, but the Wall Street Journal reported an emergency meeting of Paterson's New York City staff will take place in Midtown Manhattan later today.

An exit strategy is almost certainly in the works, and former State Comptroller H. Carl McCall seemed to imply that in comments he made to the Times before he attended a meeting with the Rev. Al Sharpton and other black and Latino politicians and city leaders in Sylvia's in Harlem. Paterson is increasingly unable to govern the state, which remains in desperate need of executive leadership that will effectively tackle the mounting budget deficit, a sluggish economy and other serious problems. And his resignation seems almost inevitable.

Paterson's office told journalists late yesterday afternoon the governor will be in New York City and has no public schedule. These schedules are often subject to change. And one can easily read between the lines and conclude Paterson may announce his resignation after members of his staff end their emergency meeting.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Univision poll indicates Peralta has commanding lead over Monserrate

With less than three weeks to go until voters in the 13th Senatorial District go to the polls in the special election, a Univision poll indicates state Assemblyman José Peralta has a commanding lead over former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate [D-Jackson Heights.]

The survey indicates 78 percent of respondents support Peralta, as opposed to 22 percent who back Monserrate. It's practically a foregone conclusion Peralta will easily win the March 16 special election, but the group of Queens religious leaders who endorsed Monserrate earlier this week proves the former New York City Councilmember still has support in spite of his conviction last October of misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend in his Jackson Heights apartment in Dec. 2008.

Stay tuned...

Monday, March 1, 2010

New York Times reports Paterson ordered two aides to call woman in domestic violence case

The plot suddenly thickens in the ongoing saga surrounding Gov. David Paterson.

The New York Times reported earlier tonight he directed two aides -- press secretary Marissa Shorenstein and state employee Deneane Brown -- to contact the woman whom David Johnson allegedly assaulted and dissuade her from appearing in court on Feb. 8. This report comes less than four days after Paterson suspended his election campaign. And these latest revelations will certainly increase calls for his resignation -- even before he serves the remaining 305 days of his term.

Shorenstein is the contact on a press release the governor's office sent out earlier tonight about St. Vincent's. The rather obvious question, however, is indeed whether Paterson will resign (and when.) One contact speculated it could happen as early as this weekend, but the fact remains Paterson is an increasing distraction for a state that continues to face extremely serious problems. It is time for the governor to end this saga once and for all.