Sergeant Charles H. Cochrane, 1981. Photo by Mary DiBiase. Source: New York Daily News.
St. Joseph’s was founded in 1829 as the sixth Roman Catholic church in Manhattan. For much of its history the church had a largely Irish immigrant congregation. As Greenwich Village evolved into one of New York City’s most progressive neighborhoods, with a substantial LGBT population, St. Joseph’s became an open and welcoming parish, with a strong focus on social justice issues. This has been one of the Catholic churches most welcoming to the city’s LGBT community. Every year during LGBT Pride Month in June the church holds a special mass in memory of those lost to AIDS.
In 1982, the first meeting of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) was held in the basement of St. Joseph’s. The meeting, attended by eleven officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD), was organized by Sergeant Charles H. Cochrane at a time when gay police officers did not feel comfortable coming out and when they suffered from discrimination and harassment. A year earlier, Cochrane testified in support of the City’s gay rights bill, which made him the first officer in the history of the NYPD to publicly announce that he was gay:
“I am very proud of being a New York City policeman and I’m equally proud of being gay.”
Sgt. Charles H. Cochrane, November 1981
Cochrane died of cancer in 2008. In his honor, the corner of Sixth Avenue and Washington Place, just outside of the church, was named “Sergeant Charles H. Cochrane Way” on June 17, 2016.
In 1980, the music director at St. Joseph’s, Vernon Kroening, was killed in a homophobic attack on the Ramrod bar on West Street.