Beloved Queens LGBTQ figure Ms. Colombia was found dead on the shore of Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways, NYPD said on Thursday.
Police found Ms. Colombia, who was born Osvaldo Gomez, around 3:30 in the morning at Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 149 Street after responding to a 911 call.
Officials said they observed “no obvious signs of trauma,” to the body. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death and the investigation remains ongoing, per NYPD.
Ms. Colombia was an “iconic figure in the LGBT community and beyond,” New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, whose district includes East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, said in a statement.
“She was beloved by all who saw her in the streets, at parades and in the neighborhood wearing her colorful outfits and a bird on her shoulder,” Dromm said. “Her cheerfulness and ability to bring a smile to the faces of all who met her will be missed by all New Yorkers.”
Remembering Queens LGBT icon Ms. Colombia
Ms. Colombia was well known in Jackson Heights and was featured in an eight-part mini-documentary series from 2015 called “No Your City,” for which “extraordinary New York City street characters” were profiled.
She was originally from Colombia, where she was a lawyer, and moved to Queens in 1975 to pursue the same career. She was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, per the documentary, which prompted a change in her lifestyle where she wanted to live “day by day.”
“They ask me: ‘Are you homo? Are you gay? Are you lesbian?’” Ms. Colombia says in the documentary. “And I say: ‘No, I am a human being from another planet.’
News of her death sparked sympathy from those in the Jackson Heights, Queens community and beyond.
“We join the prideful LGBTQ community in #Queens in mourning the loss of, Ms. Colombia a.k.a. Osvaldo Gomez,” the Caribbean Equality Project tweeted. “Whether it’s a protest or parade, they were always vibrantly present, exuberating love and authenticity. Rest in power, #MsColombia.”
New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer added his condolences, saying online that he was so sad about her death.
“Ms. Colombia was not only at all parades in Jackson Heights & a beloved figure,” he tweeted. “About 15 years ago I was at a Mets game at Shea Stadium & there was Ms. Colombia walking around defiant & proud!”
Dromm also shared in his statement how he remembers marching with Ms. Colombia at the first Queens Pride Parade, as well as other parades across the city like the Chinese New Year Parade and the India Day Parade.
“While life did not always treat Ms. Colombia with all the respect she was due, New Yorkers will remember Ms. Colombia as a hero to everyone,” Dromm said. “May Ms. Colombia rest in peace.”
Dromm organized a memorial for Ms. Colombia to be held Friday, October 5 at the Jackson Heights Post Office, 37th Avenue and 78th Street, at 7 p.m.