Gay Activist Harry Wieder Killed in NYC Traffic Accident

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 29, 2010

New York gay activist Harry Wieder was struck by a cab and killed in New York City on the evening of April 26, reported multiple local and national publications, among them the Wall Street Journal.

Wieder, who described himself on Facebook as a "Disabled, gay, Jewish, leftist, middle aged dwarf who ambulates with crutches" was an advocate for GLBT equality and for transportation and other issues for the disabled. He was the son of parents who survived the Holocaust; spinal surgery he underwent when he was about 30 left him dependent on crutches. Wieder was attempting to cross a busy street known as a dangerous spot for crashes following a meeting of Community Board 3, to which he had been a longtime member. Witnesses said that because he was wearing dark clothing and he was crossing at mid-street rather than at a corner, the taxi driver may have had a hard time seeing him.

Witnesses also recounted that the cab swerved just before hitting Wieder; police do not believe that the fatality was anything other than an accident.

Wieder was spoken of affectionately by friends and colleagues, who recalled him as a colorful but forceful personality and praised his contributions. A blog reported that fellow Community Board 3 member, and chair of the group, Dominic Pisciotta said that Wieder "contributed so much to the Board and you could always count on him being at nearly every meeting. He loved serving the community and most of all fighting for it." Pisciotta praised Wieder as "the ultimate activist," reported the New York Post on April 28. "He cared a lot about the community and many different issues as well."

"He had a big impact on his community," Susan Stetzer, district manager for Community Board 3, said, reported Manhattan local publication on April 28. "That's why his loss will be really felt by people, because he was so intensely engaged with the community."

Stetzer noted that, "The safe thing would have been to walk to Houston Street," rather than crossing midway along Essex Street, where only weeks ago, on April 12, another fatality occurred. "But it's very, very difficult and laborious for him to walk," and Wieder's car was parked in the middle of the block.

The article noted that Essex Street had been identified as a particularly dangerous street by Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group.

"How terrible that someone who worked to improve transportation for all was struck by a taxi," Scoot Stringer, the president of Manhattan Borough, said, adding that Wieder's left "behind a huge void in the communities he served," and suggesting, "We can honor his life by continuing to fight for safer roads, and furthering his legacy of equality and access for all."

"What he was able to offer to the board, nobody can replace," said Rabbi Y.S. Ginzberg, who had bidden Wieder good night only moments before the accident. "His accomplishments on the board will be sorely, sorely missed." Added Ginzberg, "He had a very strong, positive personality and never felt bad about his handicap."

Several publications noted that Betty Adelsen had written of Wieder in the 2005 book The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation," noting his "combative, roguish nature," but also praising his "penchant for truth."

"Harry was a small person but he was a very big personality," Anne Emmerman, a former city official, said, reported the New York Post. "He had a big voice and a very colorful character."

Wieder was taken to Bellevue hospital, several publications said, but he did not survive. Several of his friends and colleagues gathered at the hospital after the accident, news sources said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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