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Borough salutes gay pride

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Michael Forbes holds a rainbow flag. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Joseph Villane stops to dance on 37th Avenue during the annual Queens Pride Parade. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Alex Galeano (r.) smiles alongside her mother, Juliette. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Elected officials pause for a moment of silence. Photo by Christina Santucci
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U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley joins Assemblymen (l.-r.) Michael Den Dekker, Jose Peralta and Francisco Moya. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses the crowd gathered at the 22nd annual Queens Pride Parade in Jackson Heights. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, (l.-r.) Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James and Councilmen Danny Dromm, Carlos Menchaca, Corey Johnson and Ritchie Torres walk behind the Council's banner. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Jackson Heights resident Anthony Miranda sports a colorful wig. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Mayor Bill de Blasio greets youngsters Rose Murray and Eilean Faltin. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas marches in the parade. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Queens Borough President Melinda Katz joins the festivities. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Cookie the dog poses on the sidelines. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A participant sports a colorful ensemble. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Natasha del Olm carries red pom-poms. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for a picture with parade organizers and officials. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Cheer New York, an all-volunteer, non-profit adult cheering organization, performs for the judges. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Participants cheer as they walk with the AIDs Center of Queens. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Participants walk with Make the Road. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Dayanna Munoz Baquero smiles for the camera. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Diana de la Pava walks alongside her daughter, Maya. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Members of the NYC Lesbian and Gay Big Apply Corps Marching Band twirl colorful flags. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Miss Colombia, Oswald Gomez, takes part in the festivities. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Brooky Cerda holds a photo of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death last year in Harlem. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Tempo Libero bar in Woodside has a contingent of soldiers to carry its banner. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Agra Rodriguez walks alongside Carolina Campos. Photo by Christina Santucci
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NYC Lesbian and Gay Big Apply Corps Marching Band provide the music. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A contingent from Brooklyn Pride marches down the avenue. Photo by Christina Santucci

Mayor Bill de Blasio did something none of his predecessors had ever done Sunday when he marched in the Queens Pride Parade.

“It is the second largest pride parade in the city, but its spirit is tied for first,” the mayor told parade-goers in Jackson Heights. “I want you to know this parade is a celebration of life. It’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and strength in this city.”

A crowd of thousands made its way to 37th Avenue for the annual celebration despite a No. 7 train shutdown, which closed down service from Times Square to the Roosevelt Avenue-74th Street station for repair work.

Booming music permeated the air as dancers, elected officials and drag queens strutted down the parade route.

De Blasio praised the borough’s gay community as instrumental in starting the movement that has led to marriage equality in 19 states.

“Because of your efforts, equality is spreading like wildfire across this country and we are living up to the ideals of this country and that is something to celebrate,” de Blasio said.

Walde Mar and Milton Nugra, a gay couple who are planning to get married in July, watched the parade from the sidewalk. The two traveled all the way from Connecticut to behold the colorful spectacle.

“We are here to have fun and be proud,” Mar said. “We deserve to have equality.”

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who served as one of the grand marshals of the parade, along with other members of the Council’s LGBT Caucus, said he found it shocking that in 22 years of the parade’s existence no other mayor had marched.

“I love Bill de Blasio for showing every day that his commitment for equality for the LGBT community is something that’s deep in his heart,” Van Bramer said. “To have a mayor of the city of New York so publicly and visibly support our equality is really heartwarming and powerful in the message that it sends.”

Marchers stopped briefly at 74th Street to observe a moment of silence for Julio Rivera, a gay man who was murdered at the street corner in 1990.

Parade-goers also remembered Flushing resident Jeanne Manford, the parade’s first grand marshal in 1993, who died last year.

Manford is considered a pioneer in the American gay rights movement as she was the first mother to march in the city’s pride parade with her gay son in 1972. She also founded an organization called Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, which now has more than 200,000 members worldwide.

U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who marched in the parade, introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives Monday honoring Manford’s life and work.

“Jeanne’s unconditional love helped change the hearts and minds of so many people in Queens and throughout the city of New York,” Crowley said. “She leaves behind an incredible legacy of courage and humanity and today we live in a more just society because of her work.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 5:37 pm, June 5, 2014
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