Landmark Protections for LGBT Historic Sites Urged

The Stonewall Inn is located in Greenwich Village Historic District. (Photo by RealMattKane, Creative Commons License)

The Stonewall Inn is located in the Greenwich Village Historic District. (Photo by RealMattKane, Creative Commons License)

Support is growing for preservationists’ efforts to secure stronger landmark protection for three buildings in the West Village and Lower Manhattan that played important roles in the city’s LGBT history, reports Sam Spokony for Gay City News.

The sites are: the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, Julius’ Bar at 159 West 10th Street, and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street. Approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is required for any changes to the status of these sites. The first two are located within the Greenwich Village Historic District and the third within the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District.

Preservationists are asking the commission to either individually landmark each building or update their historic district reports with information on their roles within the gay rights movement.

“This is long overdue, and it’s a vital step toward further preventing future changes to these sites that could compromise their history,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), which is leading the push.

GVSHP has so far won the support of other preservationist and LGBT advocacy groups, as well as elected officials including City Councilmembers Corey Johnson and Margaret Chin, state Sen. Brad Hoylman, state Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Public Advocate Letitia James.

“It would be a tragic loss to the city’s history and communities if we do not act to protect these sites from future development and give them the recognition they deserve in the designation report,” Johnson and Chin wrote in a joint February 20 letter to LPC chair Robert Tierney. The LPC has also heard from leaders of both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State as well as from Glennda Testone, executive director of the LGBT Community Center.

LPC has so far given little reaction to the demand except for an acknowledgement by its executive director, Kate Daly, that the three sites will be included in the citywide study of culturally significant buildings in the historic districts. The study could result in individual protection or inclusion in amended district designation reports. But Berman remains “perplexed” by the commission’s inaction.

“This should be a no-brainer, and it’s really surprising to me that [LPC] hasn’t been more receptive and given a clear ‘Yes’ on this,” he told this reporter.

Saying he doesn’t believe Tierney, first appointed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, will remain at the helm of LPC much longer, Berman added, “So now we’re looking to see who the new chair will be, and hopefully that person will be more receptive to this.”

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