Six significant LGBTQ sites in New York City are landmarked
June 18, 2019
By: Devin Gannon
Six sites significant to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community of New York City officially became city landmarks on Tuesday. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, the Women’s Liberation Center, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Caffe Cino, James Baldwin’s Upper West Side home, and the Staten Island home of Audre Lorde. The designations coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, as well as the city’s first time hosting WorldPride.
LPC Chair Sarah Carroll on Tuesday said she was proud of the designations. “These six new individual landmarks build on our designation of the Stonewall Inn by recognizing some of the foundational locations for LGBT activism in the second half of the 20th century, important groups who fought for equality and provided support, and acclaimed African-American authors and activists whose published works have been inspirational to many people and whose legacy resonates today.”
The sites were proposed for landmark status based on recommendations by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project during a meeting earlier this year with the commission and a representative from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office.
“New York City played such an important role in moving the LGBTQ civil rights movement forward and we owe it to those who fought in this movement to ensure that their legacy lives on,” Johnson said in a statement. “These sites memorialize the diversity and intersectionality of the LGBTQ rights movement and will make excellent additions to the city’s amazing list of landmarks.”
Two buildings in Greenwich Village were designated, including Caffe Cino, the first Off-Off-Broadway theater that became a safe haven for gay performers, and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse on Wooster Street, which served as a meeting space for the LGBT community following the Stonewall uprising.
“On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which also occurred in Greenwich Village, we should be reflecting back upon that history of progress and honoring the people and places which made it possible,” Andrew Berman, the executive director of Village Preservation, said in a statement.
“We will continue to fight for the recognition and preservation of the history of the LGBT community and other marginalized and underrepresented communities which have often found a home and support in our neighborhoods — it’s one of the aspects of our neighborhoods’ history of which we are most proud.”
The LPC also landmarked the Anglo-Italianate former firehouse on West 20th Street which housed the Women’s Liberation Center from 1972 to 1987 and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center on West 13th Street. And two residences of notable LGBT New Yorkers made the cut: James Baldwin’s Upper West Side house and Audre Lorde’s home on Staten Island. As 6sqft reported on Monday, the New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended 18 properties be added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, including Baldwin’s home at 137 West 71st Street.
“We hope that these designations, based in part on our recommendations to the Commission, will be a model not only for continuing recognition in New York City, but for designations across the country beyond Stonewall 50 celebrations,” Andrew Dolkart, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said in a statement.
6 LGBT Historic Sites are Now Designated NYC Landmarks!
September 19, 2019
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted and the decision was *unanimous*: all six LGBT historic sites presented at public hearing earlier this month are now Individual Landmarks!
On Staten Island, the Audre Lorde Residence. On the Upper West Side, the James Baldwin Residence. In SoHo and Greenwich Village, the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, the Women’s Liberation Center, the Caffe Cino and the LGBT Community Center. All are now landmarks, designated for their cultural significance to LGBT, New York City and American history.
Original research by the Project team was key to contextualizing place-based LGBT history for the Commission, and was integral in their evaluations. Following meetings with the Commission’s chair, Sarah Carroll, and her staff to discuss how important LGBT-related sites are to the history of New York, these six sites were selected. Their designation places them alongside the city’s architectural landmarks, adding to the diversity of places officially recognized by the city.
Thanks are in Order
To the Landmarks Preservation Commission, for recognizing the place-based history of the LGBT community. And to our colleague organizations around the City for your important support!
To the elected representatives who championed these designations, especially City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Thank you also to State Senator Brad Hoylman; Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Richard Gottfried, Linda Rosenthal and Daniel O’Donnell; Councilmembers Margaret Chin, Debi Rose, Daniel Dromm, Carlos Menchaca, Ritchie Torres and Jimmy Van Bramer and former City Council LGBT Caucus member Rosie Mendez; and Borough Presidents Gale Brewer and Ruben Diaz, Jr.
To YOU, and the hundreds of supporters that submitted a letter in support of these designations. Together, we showed that LGBT historic sites provide a tangible, visceral connection to what is often an unknown and invisible past. Thank you!
Landmark designations must be reviewed by the City Council, starting with the sub-committee on Landmarks, followed by the Land Use committee and, finally, by the full 51-member City Council. We’ll continue to testify in support at every opportunity, alongside our preservation and LGBT colleagues. Please continue to follow our social media channels for updates along the way!
Read Our Testimony
(1) Audre Lorde Residence,
207 St. Paul’s Avenue,
Staten Island (testimony)
(2) Caffe Cino,
31 Cornelia Street,
(3) LGBT Community Center,
208 West 13th Street,
(4) James Baldwin Residence,
137 West 71st Street,
(5) Women’s Liberation Center,
243 West 20th Street,
(6) Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse,
99 Wooster Street,
Historic LGBTQ Sites to See During Pride in NYC
June 12, 2019
By: Melissa Kravitz
“LGBTQ history is American history,” says Ken Lustbader, co-Director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. Together with his co-founders (and one paid employee), these preservationists and historians identify and document the spaces and places where LGBTQ people made significant contributions to New York City and the nation as a whole. “We’re looking at NYC through [an] LGBTQ lens and making this invisible history visible by conveying the rich history of LGBTQ people in NYC,” Lustbader says.
The organization has nearly 200 New York City historical sites listed on its website, with an aim to develop the most comprehensive LGBTQ cultural map in New York City, or any city in America. The sites include the obvious, like The Stonewall Inn, where the namesake riots started in 1969, and the broad, like “the entire Theater District,” as Lustbader says.
The endeavor reaches all corners of the city, spotlighting Flushing Meadow Park, where openly gay architect Philip Johnson designed the New York State Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair, and the 19th Century Bronx home of Christine Jorgensen, where she made headlines after her sex reassignment surgery. Prominent LGBTQ people have been marginalized from mainstream history, but Lustbader and his “passion project” colleagues are working to change that.
Still, there are shortcomings: Racial discrimination often prevented LGBTQ people of color from gaining capital to open bars and restaurants, and many important sites, like those of pivotal to 1980s ball culture, have disappeared due to gentrification. Lustbader and his co-directors are working to uncover underrepresented narratives and better include people of color in their preservation efforts.
The team is also preparing an app and visiting local classrooms to, “educate the next generation that LGBTQ Americans have really contributed to society, politics, art, literature and the general health of our country,” Lustbader says.
With the project’s resources and walking tours, any New Yorker can dip into queer history at LGBTQ heritage sites citywide. Here are a few to start with:
Yep, this is the bar known for the historic June 1969 riots, when queer activists fought back against discriminatory police raids. Lustbader says that it’s important for visitors to realize that this is not the “birthplace of the modern liberation movement,” and calling it such can minimize the previous activism led to that pivotal night. Recognizing this and what preceded this turning point, and understanding the streets where all the action took place is a huge part of comprehending LGBTQ history.
One of New York City’s longest-standing gay bars, this is a second home to LGBTQ people eager to dig into a burger or share a few drinks with newfound friends. While the interiors have historic charm — the building dates back to 1826 and housed a grocery store before it was converted to a bar in 1864 — its power is derived from the history of the people who supported it along the way. Julius’ survived as a speakeasy during Prohibition, and began attracting a gay clientele in the decades that followed. In April 1966 (pre-Stonewall), it sparked a “sip in,” to fight a New York State Liquor Authority regulation prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving homosexuals.
A solemn place to visit, this site memorializes Julio Rivera, a gay New Yorker who was murdered by three skinheads in 1990. The tragedy helped generate political movement, especially in Queens, for LGBTQ visibility and fight against discrimination.
While sites like Stonewall are famously important to America’s queer history, others may be more subtle. Lustbader recommends looking at the Times Square area through a new lens, to comprehend the massive role LGBTQ people (whether out or not) have had Broadway and theater culture. “It’s amazing to be able to understand that so many theaters have such a rich LGBT overlay,” he says.
The narrowest house in Manhattan is worth a visit for history buffs and architecture fanatics alike. Bisexual poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived here from 1923-1925, writing in cramped quarters decades before creatives could toil in the relative comfort of WeWork spaces. The townhouse sold for $3.25 million in 2013, and the backyard garden (private access only, sorry) is #goals.
It’s easy to take the beautiful oasis in the middle of Manhattan at face value: Nice grass, few garbage heaps, plenty of room for outdoor imbibing. But the green acreage also had deep significance to gay New Yorkers and visitors throughout the 19th Century. The Ramble was a well-known cruising spot, and the city’s early Gay Pride Marches ventured from Christopher Street to Central Park.
Black lesbian writer and activist Audre Lorde lived here with her partner and two children from 1972 to 1987. Here, she worked on various books and poems, and also co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press with black lesbian feminist Barbara Smith.
This picturesque historic Dutch farmhouse (built in 1690) was home to photographer Alice Austen and her partner, Gertrude Tate in the early 19th Century. A National Historic Landmark since 1993, it now showcases Austen’s work, hosts weddings and opens its picturesque grounds to visitors. And at $5 a pop, it may be the most reasonable museum admission in all of New York.
The oldest gay bar in Queens, the old guard may remember this dive right off Astoria Boulevard as a lesbian bar, while recent regulars will know it as a straight up queer bar with Drag Race viewing parties and live drag queen performances. Albatross is full of lore, and frequently packed with locals and regulars vying to ensure its continued success.
Human Rights Conference
June 24, 2019 | 3:00pm-4:30pmView on Google Maps
We’re excited to be a part of NYC Pride’s Human Rights Conference next week! Project co-director Jay Shockley will be speaking on Monday, June 24th, at 3pm in a session titled “From Stonewall to Pulse: A Discussion on the Future of LGBTQ+ Historic Sites,” featuring National Parks Conservation Association, National Center for Transgender Equality, onePULSE Foundation.
NYC Pride’s Human Rights Conference is an exciting gathering of activists, artists, educators, journalists, policymakers, students, and others engaged in LGBTQIA+ human rights around the world. This two-day conference provides a unique opportunity for a global dialogue about human rights, ranging from performances to presentations, politics to policies, and activism to academics.
Conference overview with panel details can be seen here.