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.
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.