Thursday, February 26, 2009

Opinion: Of Bathhouses and Community Boards
By Allen Roskoff
New York Blade - 02/20/2009

I am writing this article in Rio de Janeiro. I needed a break from New York, where horses are treated like trucks and gay men are arrested on false prostitution charges. While the entrapments are outrageous, I maintain we would be better off eliminating prostitution arrests altogether. Why are laws against victimless crimes being enforced in the first place? This so-called quality of life, zero tolerance campaign must end.

The atmosphere in Rio is very open and the city offers a great assortment of gay nightlife. There are numerous clubs and at least five bathhouses. The bathhouses, while not as fancy as the ones long closed in New York, serve their purpose. Prostitution is permitted or at least overlooked in almost all venues and it is quite in the open in the baths. The young men are intelligent, bilingual and educated. As I say, consenting adults everywhere should be able to agree to have sex for money, as they do in Brazil. You’d think that such a religious, Christ-worshipping country would prohibit this behavior, but no. In New York, men are being arrested on trumped-up suspicions, but in Rio it is live-and-let-live. Of course, I gathered all this information only on a fact-finding mission.

In Brazil, drugs are also tolerated. Ordinary users convicted of drug crimes get either treatment or community service. Luckily, Bloomberg, Ray Kelly and the City Council have no jurisdiction. I also surmise that they don’t have community boards sticking their noses into everyone’s private lives.

President Obama and Governor Paterson both say they want lobbyists to have less power within government. The first thing they can do is to ban lobbyists from sitting on the New York State Democratic Committee and being delegates to the Democratic National Committee. From what I see, lesbian and gay lobbyists in these positions make their first concern peddling influence for monetary gain, and the real issues facing the LGBT community are virtually meaningless. Replace these culprits with real activists advocating for the community and not their own wallets.

Two gay men were attacked in New York. One was thrown down and hit his head on the floor. His boyfriend was punched in the face while his assailant screamed “faggot.” This happened at the Corner Bistro at West 4th Street and Jane Street in front of other staff and patrons and the attacker is an employee of the restaurant. The Village isn’t what it used to be and it is no wonder gay people have left in huge numbers. The Community Board needs to disapprove the renewal of the Corner Bistro’s liquor license. An LGBT boycott won’t work because they don’t want us there in the first place. Revoking the license will send a much more important message. Since the Pride Street Fair in June is only a block away, that would be a great day to close them down.

Page Six of the New York Post wrote the following:
“MANHATTAN Community Board 4, which covers Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, seems to be turning puritanical. Board chair man J.D. Nolan is demanding an investigation into gym mogul David Barton’s new posters in the neighborhood, claiming they’re pornographic and should be censored. Barton - whose clients have included Alex Rodriguez, Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani - built his gym empire around the motto, ‘Look Better Naked.’ One board member was overheard at a recent meeting complaining, ‘You’d think we were living in Kansas.’”
I will offer my own opinions about Community Board 4 in the not-too-distant future.

The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club recently started a monthly, invitation-only breakfast for members and supporters. At the kickoff, the guest speaker was Woody Pascal, Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Liquor Authority. After my brief introduction emphasizing the anti-nightlife mood of community boards and their capricious and arbitrary decisions, Pascal began a very enlightening presentation. After a short primer on the goals and function of the SLA, he outlined the difference in roles that the state and city governments play in determining policy on liquor licenses. Pascal also spoke about the current fiscal crisis and the importance of nightlife to the economy of New York. His agency plans to schedule meetings to educate Community Boards as to their role in relation to the SLA. There were extensive questions from those present, particularly the club owners. In addition to those owners, the following were in attendance: Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick; Wendi Paster, chief of staff to Assembly Member Dick Gottfried; Colin Casey from State Senator Tom Duane’s office; and Adam Brickman from Assembly Member Jonathan Bing’s office; Council candidates Maria Passante-Derr, Bob Zuckerman and Ken Diamondstone; political guru Michael Colosi; District Leader Alan Fleishman; and Community Board 7 chair, Helen Rosenthal, as well as John Weis and Corey Johnson.

There has been great speculation as to why Charles G. Hogg, the groundhog in Staten Island, bit Mayor Bloomberg on Groundhog Day and drew blood. My theory is that the groundhog is gay and has great reason to detest the often anti-gay mayor.

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