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Bowery mural wall controversy deepens, Rivington House work quietly resumes, and more

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Three things to know today

Max Touhey

Alice Austen house becomes a national LGBTQ landmark

The Alice Austen House on Staten Island has long been recognized as a significant LGBTQ landmark in New York City, but has now been deemed a national LGBTQ historic site, DNAinfo reports.

The house in Rosebank is already on the National Register of Historic Places, but a Tuesday ceremony will mark the house’s new status on the register as an area of significance for LGBTQ history. Austen lived in the home most of her life, and would go on to live there with her partner of 53 years, Gertrude Tate, through 1945.

The house is historic on many levels: Austen’s grandfather purchased the Dutch Colonial house, dating to the 1690s, and surrounding property in 1844. Austen moved into the house with her mother in the 1860s. Her home life would go on to impact her career as one of the city’s first street photographs, according to previous coverage on Curbed:

Her photographs documented the daily lives of New Yorkers and her subjects often included postmen, policemen, bootblacks, fishmongers, messengers, newsgirls, street-sweepers, snow-cleaners and peddlers. Although her impressive portfolio of more than 8,000 images deserved much attention, it was her personal life that gave her a bit of notoriety. Defying Victorian convention, Alice never married and instead, spent 50 years with her longtime partner Gertrude Tate, who moved into the house in 1917.

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement on Thursday celebrating the house’s new identification. “This new historic designation of for the Alice Austen House is a recognition of the full scope of this trailblazer’s life and is a further recognition of this state’s place in the struggle for LBGT rights.”

Bowery mural wall whitewashed

The whitewashed Bowery mural wall.
EV Grieve

David Choe’s work for the Bowery mural wall is no more. After just two weeks, the artwork that was supposed to be on display through October has been whitewashed over. Leading up to its erasure, the mural had been vandalized several times as a response to a 2014 radio interview during which the artist bragged of sexual assault.

It’s unclear at this time if Choe is behind the whitewashing, but the artist posted a lengthy self-critical apology accompanied by a blank image to Instagram that simultaneously denied the attack (h/t EV Grieve). “In a 2014 episode of DVDASA, I relayed a story simply for shock value that made it seem as if I had sexually violated a woman,” Choe writes. “Though I said those words, I did not commit those actions.”

Jessice Wynwood, the founder of Goldman Global Arts, who oversees the Bowery mural wall and its selection of artists, also issued a response to the outcry on Instagram. “[Y]our voices have prompted us to question whether we should evaluate the character of the artists with whom we work, and automatically disqualify from consideration those who have behaved inappropriately,” Wynwood writes. “This debate is universal and not unique to the art world. We honestly don’t know the right answer. Where do we draw the line?”

How long the Bowery wall will remain whitewashed is not been acknowledged.

Rivington House’s condo conversion gets a boost

The Department of Buildings has quietly lifted parts of a 14-month-old stop-work order at the site of former Lower East Side nursing home Rivington House, which was sold to luxury condo developer Slate Property Group in February 2016. The building’s sale, accompanied by the lifting of a deed restriction by the mayor’s office allowing the site to go condo, prompted major outcry from local pols and the community.

A stop-work order issued in April 2016 has now been temporarily lifted, according to the New York Post, allowing the removal of some walls and flooring at the site. In a letter by advocates to Mayor de Blasio that was obtained by the Post, Tessa Huxley and Harriet Cohen write, “This ‘exploratory work’ allows for the ‘miscellaneous removal of areas of flooring, walls and ceiling finishes throughout the existing building in order to expose the existing structure and masonry elements … for future renovations.”

Manhattan’s preservationist borough president Gale Brewer also penned a letter to city officials over the matter. Writing to DOB commissioner Rick Chandler, Brewer said she was “alarmed” by the partial removal of the stop-work order. “I am perplexed as to why my office did not receive direct notice from DOB regarding the change to the Stop Work Order on this property.”

In late April the State Senate rejected a bill that would demand stronger protections for community-based nursing homes and would require the state Department of Health to determine that community needs could be met without the facility before it could be closed.

Alice Austen House

2 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10305 (718) 816-4506 Visit Website

Rivington House

45 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002