Pride flag to be raised on ceremonial pole installed on lawn alongside Amsterdam City Hall

The flagpole for ceremonial displays installed on lawn alongside Amsterdam City Hall as seen on Tuesday. 

The flagpole for ceremonial displays installed on lawn alongside Amsterdam City Hall as seen on Tuesday. 

AMSTERDAM — The Pride flag will be raised on the grounds at Amsterdam City Hall in the coming days in a display of support for the LGBTQI+ community.

“Compared to last year and not being able to do it, this is a step in the right direction, because all members of the community need to feel welcomed,” said Roxanne Marin, regional director of Centro Civico, a Division of Ibero.

Marin said plans are being finalized for a community march from Centro Civico to City Hall where the rainbow flag will be raised to honor Pride month. The agency is partnering with In Our Own Voices and the Pride Center of the Capital Region to organize the event that is expected to be held late next week.

“I would have liked it raised earlier, but I think it’s about coordinating with other organizations,” Marin said. “We want them there not only in support, but also to share services they can bring to communities here in Amsterdam and to bring about more awareness.”

The Common Council on Tuesday passed a ceremonial resolution co-sponsored by 1st Ward Alderwoman Kelly Quist-Demars and 4th Ward Alderman Stephen Gomula recognizing June as LGBTQI+ Pride Month within the “small city with a big heart” to be read at the flag raising.

“In order to live up to having a ‘big heart,’ it must be made clear that hate, discrimination have no place in our city,” the resolution reads. “The city of Amsterdam will raise the rainbow flag on City Hall grounds to represent a safe place within our city lines for the LGBTQI+ to be seen and respected for who they are.”

Mayor Michael Cinquanti said he understands the importance of raising the Pride flag to show support for the LGBTQI+ community. He had declined to raise the rainbow flag last year citing concerns over flying any non-governmental flags at City Hall before pledging at a Pride event at Centro Civico to display it in the future to show solidarity with the community.

“Love is love to me and hate is hate,” Cinquanti said. “I am in full support of LGBTQ community in every way possible. I have conducted several gay marriages here, it’s been an honor and privilege for me to do that.”

As an advocate for underserved populations, Marin said Centro Civico has sought to bring awareness to the LGBTQI+ community and foster a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. She noted many locals have revealed they feel unsafe or fearful of coming out.

“I’m very glad and happy to see they took this initiative,” Marin said of the city’s involvement this year. “For me it’s not only a professional thing I advocate for, I’ve seen it firsthand with family. It’s one of those things that go straight to my heart.”

While he is “happy” the city will raise the Pride flag this year, resident Gerald Skrocki said the banner should be flown on the flagpoles in front of the building instead of the new flagpole for ceremonial displays installed recently in a grassy area at the side of City Hall.

“We’re not second-class citizens, we deserve a place on the flagpole in front of City Hall and not a secondary location,” Skrocki said. “Any other decision is a compromise and it’s disrespectful to the community and discriminatory.”

Skrocki pointed out the city has hosted events around the flagpoles in front of the building in the past. He shared photos of locals gathered around the flagpoles to remember 9/11 in 2011. The Ukrainian flag was also raised at City Hall after the country was invaded by Russia as a sign of solidarity for the nation and natives within the local community in February 2022.

Cinquanti said the site of the new flagpole on an open lawn was selected with input from building staff to provide ample room for the community to gather away from traffic entering the driveway or flowing by on Church Street. Once raised, he said the Pride flag will be the first thing people heading north past City Hall will see.

“We’re trying to make this something that works for all events and becomes a place of honor and place of pride for all people,” Cinquanti said. “I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate [Pride].”

Although there are no immediate safety concerns, Cinquanti added the gradual decay of the building facade played a role in the site selection due to masonry beginning to crumble and fall in some areas. A rear porch has been closed for some time as a result. The city plans to seek funding to support restoration of the historic building in the future.

After Skrocki shared his concerns with city officials, Quist-Demars and Gomula discussed those issues with the mayor and council this week. They ultimately agreed with the vision for the new flagpole in an area previously dedicated to Civil War veterans to also serve as a place of honor for individuals of all backgrounds with events and ceremonial displays, including for Pride.

“It’s actually in a very special place and I think that’s just as prominent as putting it in front of City Hall,” said Gomula. “As a city we need to include everyone.”

As the father of a transgender son, Gomula said the concerns are “near and dear” to him. He believes raising the Pride flag at the chosen site will shine a spotlight on the importance of accepting and supporting all individuals.

Similarly, Marin had no qualms over the site of the ceremonial flagpole on the grounds at City Hall. She described the city’s plan to create a gathering space for such purposes as a “good idea” and is eager to see the Pride flag raised this year.

“I thank the city for putting up the flagpole and recognizing the community does not feel safe in Montgomery County and to help advocate to bring more awareness for the LGBTQ+ in rural communities in general, because sometimes they are not seen and not heard,” Marin said.

Officials said they had not received other concerns about the flagpole location.

Still, Skrocki said he is disappointed by the city’s decision after having to fight homophobia all his life as a gay man.

“It may seem like a trivial thing to a lot of people, but it doesn’t to me,” Skrocki said. “With all the laws being enacted against the LGBTQ community across the United States, I think it’s more important than ever to fly that flag in front of City Hall on the same flagpole as the city flag.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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