The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission made the symbolic first step in landmarking six sites significant to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in New York on Tuesday.
The commission moved to calendar the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street; the Women’s Liberation Center at 243 West 20th Street; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street; the Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street; the James Baldwin Residence at 137 West 71st Street; and the Audra Lorde Residence at 207 St. Paul’s Avenue on Staten Island, effectively setting the sites up to become individual New York City landmarks.
The commission has lagged behind on protecting New York’s LGBTQ historic sites. The Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village bar that’s considered the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement, was landmarked just four years ago in 2015. The landmarking came about only after a push by preservation activists to secure stronger landmark designations for three downtown sites key to LGBTQ history. Among those sites was the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street which, unlike Stonewall, was not granted the designation in 2015.
The firehouse served as the headquarters for the Gay Activists Alliance, a gay liberation political action organization founded in 1969. The alliance used the firehouse between Prince and Spring streets as its main hub from 1971 to 1974, until the headquarters were destroyed by arson.
The three-story building at 243 West 20th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues served as the headquarters for the Women’s Liberation Center from 1972 to 1987. The site served as an important meeting space for women’s groups, specifically those tied to the lesbian community.
The LGBT Community Center was born out of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots and remains one of the foremost advocacy organizations for the community in the city. The group took title to 208 West 13th Street in 1984 and remains in the space to this day.
Caffe Cino itself has long since closed, but the building at 31 Cornelia Street remains a significant site to LGBT history. Caffe Cino operated on the building’s ground floor from 1958 to 1968, and in that time served as the birthplace of gay theater.
The commission’s next step in considering these historic sites for landmarking is to hold a hearing, at which the public can testify before the commission about the proposed designations. A formal vote, which has yet to be scheduled, will follow.