Landmarks Designates Six LGBT Historic Sites as Individual Landmarks

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Image Credit: NYC LPC

The designation of the six historic sites received strong public support. On June 18, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate five buildings in Manhattan and one building in Staten Island as individual landmarks. The buildings – the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, the Women’s Liberation Center, Caffe Cino, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, the James Baldwin Residence and the Audre Lorde Residence – all reflected pieces of New York City’s LGBT civil rights history. The designations come as New York City celebrates Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. For CityLand’s prior coverage of these six buildings, click here.

On June 4, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held public hearings for the six buildings. At the public hearing, the buildings received strong support. Several representatives from both LGBT and landmark activists groups testified in support, including representatives from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the Historic Districts Council and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Many testified about campaigning for years to get these landmarks designated.

Others testified about their personal connections to the sites. Friends of Joe Cino, the owner of the former Caffe Cino, testified about the safe space Cino provided for LGBT playwrights and performers. Others testified about their time spent at the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse and the Women’s Liberation Center and the political organizing and socializing that occurred there.

The only testimony in opposition was from the owner of the James Baldwin Residence, who objected out of fear that a designation would prevent him from restoring the facade of the building to its original brick. The owner also argued that while James Baldwin owned the building, most of his work that advanced LGBT civil rights was done while living in France, so his building was not the most appropriate to acknowledge Baldwin’s work.

At the June 18th vote, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate all six sites with no votes in opposition. The landmarks now join the Stonewall Inn as the only seven recognized LGBT landmarks in New York City.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson stated, “As people from around the world gather in New York to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall and World Pride, now is the perfect time to preserve our unparalleled LGBTQ history. 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. 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.”

Council Member Adrienne Adams, Chair of the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses, stated, “These six sites are highly valued and irreplaceable cultural resources for both the LGBT community and New York City as a whole. Their loss would diminish the cultural wealth of the city and only landmark status will ensure the preservation of these important structures. The inclusion of these significant sites is a testament to the beautiful diversity of our great city.”

Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll stated, “I am very proud of these designations, which recognize that despite the obstacles they faced, the LGBT community has thrived in New York City. 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.”

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation stated, “ We are deeply gratified that after a five-year campaign the Landmarks Preservation Commission has landmarked these incredibly important sites which tell such a critical part of New York and our nation’s history over the last half-century. In a city as diverse and progressive as New York, it’s hard to believe that until 2015 we had no landmarks reflecting LGBT history, and up until now only had one — the Stonewall Inn.  All the threads of the rich tapestry of our city’s history deserve to be recognized and preserved. 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. 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.”


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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