It was a disheartening afternoon for some 50 residents and many others in Teaneck to learn that Council at an overflow meeting refused to raise the Pride Flag on the township Green. Yes, Council members read a Pride Month Proclamation, but they issue many such proclamations which are heard by those in the meeting but not the public at large. A proud flag flying on the township Green would have been a symbol to all who live here, work here, and visit here that Teaneck is an inclusive and diverse township which welcomes LGBT people. It was not to be.
Council members claimed that it was not their fault because they got little notice of our request. Shouldn’t leaders lead or are they only followers? They said they were fearful that they would then be forced to fly other flags, including from hate groups. They referred vaguely to some NRA California lawsuit wanting to raise its flag – a suit that other lawyers doubt exists. Such liability concerns did not stop Governor Murphy nor 14 nearby towns from showing their pride. Larry Bauer, an early supporter of the cause, put some blame on residents, pointing out that he drove through Teaneck and saw only one such flag in front of a house.
Mayor Hameeduddin admitted the Council had “dropped the ball.” He proposed setting up some vague 90-day commission to study the matter and offer suggestions – a tried-and-true sure-fire way to skip over a request and even to deep-six it. He offered little comfort in saying, “Hopefully we will do it better next year.” Residents were not pleased with a vague promise.
There has been precedent of allowing a speaker to represent Sen. Weinberg and to read a statement following a council proclamation. When Caryn Diuguid rose to read Weinberg’s statement the Mayor wanted to peruse it first and insisted he would read it. The public booed him. Caryn retrieved the statement and read it later during “Good & Welfare.” The letter pointed out that people from Teaneck have been in the forefront of the fight for LGBT rights, and requested the flag be raised.
The Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee had issued a resolution requesting a raising. In addition, Felipa Bernard later read a letter sent to the council from a Teaneck resident who could not be here. “I am a gay Muslim man married to a gay Catholic man. Today we are raising a gay flag on our home but tomorrow we are going to Englewood to celebrate because Teaneck Council is not showing much support. There are still people who need to be protected.”
Comments and pleas during “Good & Welfare” to the Council were frequently moving. Some comments were sharp such as the individual who said, “When election time comes around I am going to remember you, and I am not going to vote for you. And I’m going to tell others not to vote for you. ” Another person raised an alarm about the high suicide rate among these adolescents. Below is a sampling of what others said.
- Barbara Giarno: A past President and long-time member of Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG): “I have a gay son. I can say for our children and adult members that seeing something that represents them and supports them means something to them. That is what the flag symbolizes.”
- Judy Distler: “We are the people of Teaneck who care about everyone. Are you with us this year? Next year is something else. Let’s do it now.”
- Amy Moran from the Teaneck High School with two student members of Spectrum – the Gay-Straight Alliance founded in 1995 – explained their mission and their annual ALLY event where students sign a pledge with various promises to aid LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff.
- Lynn Chaikin: “When I moved to Teaneck I was proud to be in a diverse town. But how do people hear about this diversity? The answer is with a flag. Pride is not a country nor a political party. It’s a concept, an opportunity to celebrate. It’s about love, equality, inclusion, civil rights, people who are marginalized, and much more.”
- Dr. Barbara Toffler: “I bring wishes from our daughter and our daughter-in-law who are hoping that they will be a part of making this flag fly in Teaneck.”
- Micki Shilan: “There is still ignorance in this town. One person told me that by flying the flag all the gays will start coming her.”
- Paula Rogovin: “Setting up a commission is just a delaying tactic. Put up the flag now.”
- Debbie Eliahu: “I talked with my children early on about sexual orientation knowing that adolescence is a difficult time and that for LGBT’s it is even more difificult.”
In spite of acute disappointment and anger after the meeting, community members are already strategizing about what to do next. LGBTQ individuals and their family and friends have a history, like other sometimes marginalized groups, of perseverance, determination, seeking solutions, and taking action.
OTHER COUNCIL MATTERS
- Serious traffic concerns on Park Ave.
- An investigation committee set up by the the Mayor to consist of council members to investigate the actions of the council, its lawyer and a private resident involving the extra billing of $250,000 and delay for the potty-plex. So there is to be no independent investigation, only council members and its lawyer investigating themselves. Isn’t that special. Alan Sohn said, “The council lawyer has been telling us for months he has proof positive as to who caused this added cost. Now he will pick up extra billing to create a McCarthy-esque witch-hunt.”
- Shop owners on West Englewood Ave. who were not informed in advance of a street fair there which hurt their business.
- After arousing much interest for several weeks on the part of residents, the Council the night before postponed the review of the Open Space & Recreation Plan to the next Council meeting on July 9.
For the Agenda Outline, Packet, and Video of the entire June 18 meeting go here.