The urban decay of mid-century New York provided gay men with not only a place to sunbath nude in the heart of Manhattan, but also an opportunity for sexual exploration. The Gay Liberation Movement awakened a generation of gay men who had spent most of their lives feeling isolated and oppressed; the piers became their playground. Abandoned for decades, the piers along the elevated West Side Highway became part of the Christopher Street gay scene when men began wandering a few blocks over to the dark and seedy area to cruise. Every pier, dark corner or loading dock in the area was used for a sexual encounter. .
The piers were dangerous; several men fell to their deaths through the rotting floors and there was also the ever present threat of being robbed by drug addicts, attacked by gay bashers or arrested by the NYPD.
These photos and a few oral histories are all that we have left to document the golden age of New York City's Gay Piers. The Christopher Street Pier, a well a most of the area, was "redeveloped" in 2003 and became part of the Hudson River Park system. There is still a thriving (and slightly dangerous) gay scene that continues to claim the waterfront at the Christopher Street Pier.