Correction: In ‘Gay pride sticker sparks controversy at pizzeria,’ (7/18/05) Pat Waters was misidentified for Timothy Wright.
Waters said Shirvell does not have any official status as a spokesman for the church, his views are not shared by the majority of the parish and that Waters said most of the people he spoke with were more upset with Shirvell’s posture than the gay pride sticker.
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Members of a local student-oriented Catholic parish received an e-mail last week urging them to boycott the New York Pizza Depot on East William Street because of a gay pride rainbow sicker on its front door.
The sticker has upset some people, including Andrew Shirvell, an NYPD customer and member of St. Mary’s Student Parish, located down the street from NYPD.
Shirvell, a University alumnus and former president of Students for Life, said the sticker is offensive because it endorses homosexuality instead of simply tolerating it.
“I find the rainbow flag offensive because it is a symbol of the homosexual movement that, in my opinion, indicates a validation of the homosexual lifestyle, as opposed to a sign that indicates ‘openness’ to customers who are of the homosexual orientation,” he said.
Jaya Kalra, a co-chair for Stonewall Democrats, said that it was very surprising that a parishioner reacted so strongly to the sticker, especially because she knows that St. Mary’s has been supportive in the past.
Kalra said that the flag represents diversity and that she is confused as to how Shirvell can be so upset — primarily because diversity is encouraged at this University .
“People have their own right to an opinion. But I have to wonder if the flag itself is what’s making him upset,” Kalra said. “I think it’s sad that they cut things down and cover things up that they don’t like without trying to understand what they mean.”
After Shirvell saw the sticker, he asked one of the owners why it was on the door. Shirvell said Maurice Grillo, one of the owners at NYPD, told him that an incident of some sort involving the gay community “forced his hand.”
Last week Shirvell sent an e-mail to members of St. Mary’s Student Social Justice Ministry, asking them to persuade Grillo to take the sticker down. Shirvell wrote in the e-mail that he may not eat at NYPD because it is “time to take a stand. Otherwise this type of intimidation of small business owners and their customers will never end.” Shirvell encouraged others to call or visit NYPD’s owners and ask them to remove the sticker.
Shirvell said he was led to believe that Grillo “had to put up the rainbow flag decal in order to appease the homosexuals who frequented NYPD on Friday nights” after leaving Necto nightclub on Liberty Street. Shirvell said Grillo told him he hoped the sticker would come down in a few weeks, but declined to give details about the alleged incident.
Grillo said in an interview that he was never pressured to hang the sticker on his door by anyone and that Shirvell may have misunderstood what he told him.
“It was just a decision,” Grillo said. “There was absolutely no pressure whatsoever. I just felt like it was the right thing to do. If we feel like taking it down — we will.”
John Pelemaco, a manager at NYPD, said a previous incident played a role in the posting of the sticker. According to Pelemaco, though he was not at the restaurant on the night the alleged controversy ensued, to his understanding there was a conflict between a gay club-goer and someone at the restaurant that resulted in the former being offended.
Pelemaco said he believed hanging the sticker was a way for NYPD to make peace and ensure that no members of the gay community feel ostracized or offended. He said it was done to show that NYPD “does not discriminate against anyone.”
Grillo said he did not know how long the sticker will stay on the door. He said renovations at NYPD could result in the sticker being removed. But Pelemaco said the owners did not intend to keep the sticker up for more than three weeks and that it may even be down before the end of this week.
Shirvell said he does not speak on behalf of the St. Mary’s church or parish, but that he does think it is necessary for them to know that this has occurred.
“I was solely acting in my capacity as a parishioner of St. Mary’s in communicating to my fellow parishioners what was going on, again, since many St. Mary’s parishioners frequent NYPD after weekend masses,” Shirvell said. “In my e-mail, I in no way indicated that I spoke on behalf of the parish or any of its ministries, including the Student Social Justice group.”
Timothy Wright, operations director and pastoral associate for St. Mary’s Student Parish, said St. Mary’s does not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics.
Wright said that Shirvell does not have any official status as a spokesman for the church and that Shirvell’s view on this matter is in opposition to the majority of the parish.
Wright added that of the people he had spoken to about Shirvell’s statements, he could not find many who agreed with him.
“Most of the people — at least of the people I’m at work with — more were outraged and indignant about (Shirvell’s) posture than (the sticker itself),” he said.
Grillo said that, despite the controversy over the sticker, he felt some people were inflating the matter to serve their own political interests.
“I feel like everyone is just trying to make us the middle of a political issue,” Grillo said.
“All NYPD wants to do is make good food for the whole community,” he added.