Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pier 40/ FIERCE

1) Pier 40 public soccer field (Elizabeth Baik and Zoe Ginsburg, 2009). 2) Satellite view of Pier 40 and neighborhood, 2009 (Google). 3) LGTBQ youth rally against private development. 2008 (Source: The Villager. Available from [ villager_251/queers.gif]).

West Houston Street and West Street, Manhattan, New York, NY 10014

Take the 1 train to Houston Street, walk west 4 blocks

A great way to enjoy the scenery of the Hudson River is to visit one of the many piers of Manhattan. Pier 40 is arguably the finest, or perhaps merely the most renovated and tourist-friendly. This pier, “
the largest in Hudson River Park, has a footprint of over 14 acres” and is “the starting point of for the historic Greenwich Village walking tour”1. After its completion in 1963, “Pier 40 was used as parking garage, and it continues to be used for that purpose2. However, since 1999 there have been reconstructions to provide athletic facilities to the public for little or no charge.

To tourists and those who are unfamiliar with the local neighborhood, Pier 40 appears to be a place for people to park their cars or to play soccer and baseball. However, this site and its recent signs of changes have particular significance to the LGBTQ youth group that identifies the area as a place where they belong.

The group known as
Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment (FIERCE) is an organization for LGBTQ youth of color in New York City. They are “dedicated to cultivating the next generation of social justice movement leaders who are dedicated to ending all forms of oppression” 3. A member of FIERCE who recognizes herself as a young queer woman of color describes Pier 45 and its surrounding neighborhood as “a place where LGBTQ youth go to relax, hang out with friends and form family4. She is able to “feel affirmed” in who she is and feel comfortable about her sexual orientation.

With such attachment to the nearby space, members of FIERCE were galvanized to fight against gentrification of Pier 40. In response to recent move for private development of Pier 40, FIERCE has been campaigning to be part of the redevelopment decision-making process, because any changes made to the pier would impact the community they live in or identify with. In 2008, they
launched their S.P.O.T Campaign to include a 24-hour, L.G.B.T. youth, drop-in center in Pier 40’s redevelopment plans5. Despite their efforts, there have been numerous incidents in which LGBTQ teenagers were policed and removed from the area.

In many ways, what is happening at Pier 40 exemplifies processes in New York City at large. Private development and gentrification have removed and dislocated locals who have used a particular space for a long time and identify the space as their own. Gentrification is often associated with urban renewal and revitalization of a ‘dead’ space. The process “always involves the expansion and transformation of neighborhoods through rapid economic investment and population shifts, and yet it is equally implicated with social inequalities” 6. A gentrified area may become more vivacious or aesthetically pleasing. However the process also perpetuates inequality and disadvantages marginal populations.

Present urban restructuring makes us “expect the creation of a bourgeois playground” with “retail and cultural facilities providing recreational opportunities for this population” 7. However, everybody has the right to the city and “will not surrender willingly. […] The mobilization of sufficient power through political organization or in the streets” 8 can change things. FIERCE activity and participation for Pier 40 demonstrates activism that can make a difference.

- Elizabeth Baik and Zoe Ginsburg


1Pier 40” Available from [].

2 “Pier 40 Editorial Review” Friends of the Hudson River Park. Available from []

3 “About FIERCE” Available from []

4 Bribson, Emerson. “Op-Ed: LGBTQ youth fight gentrification along Manhattan's historic piers.” WireTap Magazine. May 3, 2009. Available from []

5 Mann, Lucas. “L.G.B.T. youth group fights fiercely for a S.P.O.T. to drop in at Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park” The Villager. June 2008. Available from []

6 Davila, Arlene. Barrio Dreams

7 Neil Smith, “Gentrification, the frontier and the restructuring of urban space,” in Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell eds., Readings in Urban Theory, 338-358 (Blackboard).

8 David Harvey, “The right to the city,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27, 4, 2003, 939-941

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