“We celebrate love today.” So said village trustee Don Kerr on Friday morning, May 25, as he officially unveiled New Paltz’s brand-new rainbow crosswalk, marking the site where former mayor Jason West had focused a national spotlight by performing not-yet-legalized same-sex marriages back in 2004. “Imagine two loving people being told, ‘Your marriage is not legal.’…That it happened in New Paltz is important because it made it a national thing, and not just something that happened in California.”
Last Friday’s event wasn’t precisely a ribbon-cutting ceremony, as the brightly colored stripes were not yet dry, and the crosswalk was still blocked off with road cones to stop pedestrians from tracking through the paint. “We’ve already had somebody here trying to skateboard through this morning,” reported Joe Granieri, who had spent about three hours that morning with fellow Department of Public Works employee Kyle Roberts painting the rainbow stripes.
Granieri noted that the white stripes bordering the crosswalk, put down about a week earlier, were already beginning to show signs of fading. “Wanna get a pool going on how long this will last?” Kerr joked about the colored stripes, applied using exterior paint purchased from True Value New Paltz with funds donated by local residents.
Project organizers had hoped to use durable, weather-resistant thermoplastic stripes, such as the ones in Atlanta that had originally inspired Kerr’s interest in the project. But large cities have larger budgets for public works than the $1,300 raised in the GoFundMe campaign for the rainbow crosswalks conducted by Town of New Paltz Councilman Dan Torres. “We got a quote for 13 grand for thermoplastic. That’s too much to ask for a crosswalk,” said Kerr. The cost of the paint and labor came to “about $800,” he added. “The remainder will be used next year.”
Painting a multicolored crosswalk on Main Street proved to be too much of a bureaucratic challenge on account of Route 299 being a state road, subject to stringent Department of Transportation materials and signage standards. So the organizers chose to mark a spot at the intersection of Hasbrouck and Tricor Avenues, across from Village Hall and the Peace Park, to honor the groundbreaking same-sex weddings that had been officiated nearby 14 years previously. The crosswalk will also serve as the Finish Line for the Hudson Valley Pride March coming up this Sunday, June 3.
“Our friends at the Village of New Paltz will also be painting the crosswalks at the entrance to Hasbrouck Park so Pride Marchers will cross the rainbow as they enter the Festival!” wrote Pride Week organizers in a press release from the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. Kingston is also getting in on the rainbow action, according to Jake Salt, who was representing the Center at the New Paltz unveiling event. “We’re painting the four crosswalks in the intersection in front of our building. Half will be rainbow, and half will be the transgender flag,” which has pink, light-blue and white stripes. “It’s happening on June 2.”
Salt added that the façade of the LGBTQ Center would also be draped with a large rainbow flag made in 1978 and signed by the icon’s originator, Gilbert Baker, “the Betsy Ross of LGBTQ.” The theme for this year’s Pride Week is “Stand Together,” according to Salt, with an emphasis on the intersectionality of concerns of the LGBTQ community with issues affecting other social groups such as women, people of color and immigrants. “These are cross-cutting issues. You can’t fight in a vacuum,” he said. “We want to increase visibility and joy, and help people connect.”
The 2018 Hudson Valley Pride March will assemble at the New Paltz Middle School at noon on Sunday, June 3 and step off at 1 p.m., heading down Main Street to Plattekill Avenue. The Pride Festival will continue at Hasbrouck Park until 4 p.m.