By Jano Tantongco
David Kilmnick, president of the LGBT Network, has defended the decision to cancel this year’s L.I. Pride parade in Huntington, citing safety issues, cost and a desire to retool the structure of the parade.
“We still feel the parade is important and necessary, but it needs to be done in a different way,” he said. Kilmnick added that the network is retooling the parade to address safety concerns, and said that he is considering hosting the parade outside of Huntington next year.
While this year’s parade is cancelled, the annual pride festival will be hosted in Heckscher Park on June 11.
Kilmnick added, “It’s our responsibility when we’re bringing out 15,000 people to Huntington to make sure that everyone is safe.”
After rumors circulated that the parade was not happening, Kilmnick posted a letter to the organization’s website, explaining that safety concerns prompted the cancellation.
After this, LGBT community members created a Facebook page to speak out against the move. The group, LI LGBTQA+, plans to host a Visibility Walk on June 12, one day after festival in Huntington is scheduled.
In an article published by Long Islander News last month, LGBT advocates Erinn Furey and Tom Verni claim that Kilmnick and the LGBT Network are monetizing the event. Both said the network is discarding the efforts of advocates who worked to institute LI Pride to begin with.
The annual event has been held in Huntington since 1991. In that same year, Kilmnick was one of three event organizers to appear in court, forcing the Town of Huntington to grant a permit to host the first pride parade after it was initially denied.
Kilmnick said that putting the festival, alone, is resource intensive, typically requiring outsourced security guards and over 100 volunteers.
“If you’re going to have a quality festival that people want to come to, you have to be able to have resources for that,” he said.
Kilmnick also said that the parade usually costs $10,000 to put on.
He also said that, before the network took over production of the parade, spectatorship had been dwindling. After that, attendance spiked from 3,000 to 15,000, he said.
Kilmnick also said many parade goers also attended the festival in the park afterward, claiming the festival is the main draw of attention.
Furey and Verni also criticized the network for shortening the route of the parade, and for moving the event from a Sunday to a Saturday.
In response to the route, Kilmnick said that business owners appealed to the network, saying they didn’t want the streets closed, impeding sales.
He disagreed with that thinking, “You’re going to have 11,000 people in this town. Take advantage of it. To me, that’s a smart business decision.”
As for the move from Sunday to Saturday, Kilmnick said hosting the event on Saturday gives it more visibility, referring an event relegated to Sunday as “marching in a big closet.”
Kilmnick also provided an explanation for why LGBT Network Social Media Manager Adam Lombardi filed a report with Suffolk police after Furey made a post to the network’s Facebook page expressing anger with the cancellation of this year’s parade.
Kilmnick said the network wasn’t considering filing such a report. He said Town of Huntington officials instructed the network to report any suspicion of threat, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be.