LGBTQ Memorial

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New LGBTQ Memorial On Hudson River Honors Victims Of Intolerance

June 24, 2018 - 11:50 am
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday unveiled a memorial to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people along the Hudson River.

The memorial is intended to honor victims of hate, intolerance, and violence. It has nine boulders with pieces of glass installed in them that can act as prisms and reflect rainbows in sunlight. It was designed by artist Anthony Goicolea, of Brooklyn.

Cuomo formed the commission to come up with an LGBT memorial after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead. The governor held a moment of silence for the victims.

As the memorial was unveiled, Goicolea said being part of the LGBT community is different from being part of any other minority group.

“You’re not necessarily born into a hand-me-down legacy. There is not a family history or knowledge that is passed down. Parents and grandparents don’t have generations of experience and stories to help teach an LGBTQ kid how to get by in the world,” he said. “Each child wrestles with this, and he comes to this on his own terms. He or she figures it out, and then they have to seek out their peers, their mentors, and their own history. They have to seek out a like-minded, supportive community, and build their own second family.”

Goicolea explained that he himself grew up in Marietta, Georgia as a chubby, gay, Cuban-American Catholic boy in the predominantly Baptist Deep South in the 1970s. He said he had a hard time finding friends and felt like he was a sitting duck if he sat by himself, so he started running.

“In my mind, if I was running, no one could catch up to me, and no one could make fun of me,” he said.

Fourteen years later, Goicolea moved to New York City and still exercised his passion for running. At one point, he was running on the West Side Highway and passed the Christopher Street Piers.

“This was the early 90s, and coming from Georgia, I was mesmerized by the number of gay and trans people hanging out in the open in the middle of the day, with a sense of ownership and pride,” he said. “The pier was their turf. It was a cruising ground. It was the community center. It was a social networking site. It was a safe haven.”

Goicolea at that point also experienced gay nightlife for the first time, visiting clubs filled with people who were “unabashedly and unapologetically themselves.”

“That is why it was so devastating that a little over two years ago from today, someone entered into Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and tragically killed 49 people,” he said. “Sadly, another safe space was violated, and we were made again to feel vulnerable.”

The LGBTQ memorial seeks to create a new safe space, and is designed to look out onto the Christopher Street Piers and toward the Statue of Liberty, Goicolea said.

“The arrangement of the stones in a circular formation invites people into a safe harbor along the river, and beckons the visitor to rest upon them,” he said. “They become the pedestals for the true monument – the community.”

Cuomo said the memorial couldn’t come at a better time “to make this statement loud and proud, when we have a country that is at such a point of disruption and turmoil.”

The governor said the location for the memorial is also very powerful – along the Hudson River, which he called “a symbol of the journey of this nation.”

But Cuomo emphasized that the country remains plagued by many serious problems, including worsening gun violence and persistent discrimination.

“This memorial saddens when we think about the Orlando 49 senseless deaths, but it also enlightens us, and it also inspires us,” Cuomo said. “It inspires New Yorkers to do what New Yorkers have always done – what Anthony was referring to – to push forward; to keep going forward on that journey until we reach the destination that the Statue of Liberty promised in the first place.”

Cuomo said the promise is simple but profound.

“It says acceptance of all as individuals; acceptance of differences; opportunity for all, and it says discrimination of none,” Cuomo said. “That is the simple, powerful promise that brought millions of people to this state and this nation, and New York will carry the torch for that promise until it is a reality.”

The unveiling coincides with annual gay pride marches in New York City and other cities around the world.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)