From: gaycitynews.com

Landmarks Preservation Denies Bid to Save Spring Street Gay History Site

By Duncan Osborne
August 22, 2012

Councilman Daniel Dromm, GVSHP’s Andrew Berman, Senator Thomas Duane, and activists Allen Roskoff, Steve Ashkinazy, and Yetta Kurland at an August 22 press conference. | GAY CITY NEWS


BY DUNCAN OSBORNE |
 After the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) refused to landmark a Spring Street building that was home to early gay rights leaders in New York City, openly gay elected officials and longtime LGBT activists gathered outside the building to denounce the decision.

“I question their integrity and their lack of respect for our history,” said Allen Roskoff, the president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, at an August 22 press conference held outside 186 Spring Street.

Beginning in the early 1970s and into the early ‘80s, the building, constructed in 1824, was, at various times, home to Jim Owles, who was Roskoff’s partner, as well as to Arnie Kantrowitz and Bruce Voeller. Other leading gay political figures are known to have spent time in the building.

Owles, who died in 1993, was a founder of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), an early political group, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and the Gay & Lesbian Independent Democrats, a political club. His 1973 run for City Council made him the first openly gay candidate to run for political office in New York.

Kantrowitz, now 71, was a GAA officer and a GLAAD founder.

Voeller, who died in 1994, was a founder of what is now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). He ran the group from 1973 to 1978. He was also in the leadership of the community’s response to AIDS.

“This is a history that we should be honoring,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who has led the fight to save the building. “This is a history we should be protecting.”

In 2006, the GVSHP asked that a large part of the South Village be designated an historic district. The building is within that proposed district. On August 15, the LPC wrote to Berman saying that “although the events and figures associated with 186 Spring Street are historically significant, the building lacks the requisite architectural integrity to warrant recommending 186 Spring Street to the full commission for consideration as an individual landmark.”

Nordica Development, a private concern, wants to build “luxury loft-style condominiums” on the site and that will require that 186 Spring Street be demolished.

“It was an integral part of the gay rights movement,” said Thomas Duane, an openly gay state senator who represents a Manhattan district that runs from Canal Street to the Upper West Side and comes within a block of the Spring Street building. “There would be no Tom Duane elected to anything if not for the people who lived in this building.”

Duane was the first openly gay person elected to the City Council and to the State Senate. A host of other elected officials and gay groups have written the LPC asking it to preserve the building.

Openly gay City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who represents part of Queens, said that too many people in the queer community did not know their own community’s history or its early leaders.

“Most people in the LGBT movement don’t even know who they are,” Dromm said. “That’s why we must preserve this building.”

The Firehouse, the GAA’s Wooster Street headquarters, was roughly two blocks away so it was not uncommon for GAA members to stop by the Spring Street building after political or social events at the Firehouse.

“It was here… that all of the early leaders resided,” said Steve Ashkinazy, a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, who spent time in the house.

The city has not noted or protected any building or other location because of its place in queer community history, according to Berman.

“In the entire City of New York, there is not a single site that the city has recognized because of its importance to LGBT history,” he said.

The Stonewall bar on Christopher Street, the site of the 1969 riots seen as launching the modern gay rights movement, is a state and federal landmark, but New York City has not protected it.

The LPC confirmed Berman’s assertion that no individual site had been landmarked for its connection to the gay rights movement. Reached by phone, Stéphane Boivin, Nordica’s president, said he was occupied and could not speak to Gay City News.

Officers

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

  1. Hon. Eric Adams
  2. George Arzt
  3. Lance Bass
  4. John Blair
  5. Mark Benoit
  6. Hon. Rodneyse Bichotte
  7. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  8. Robin Byrd
  9. Hon. Gale Brewer
  10. Christian Campbell
  11. Lisa Cannistraci
  12. Kathleen Chalfant
  13. Gus Christensen
  14. Erik Coler
  15. Debra Cooper
  16. Hon. Jon Cooper
  17. Wilson Cruz
  18. Hon. Laurie Cumbo
  19. Alan Cumming
  20. Valorie Curry
  21. Michael Czaczkes
  22. Hon. Bill de Blasio
  23. Jon Del Giorno
  24. Aries Dela Cruz
  25. Kyan Douglas
  26. Hon. Daniel Dromm
  27. James Duff
  28. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  29. Kathryn Erbe
  30. Hon. Herman Farrell
  31. Hon. Alan Fleishman
  32. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  33. Dan Gettleman
  34. Hon. Richard Gottfried
  35. Hon. Mark Green
  36. Robert Grunnah
  37. Tony Hoffmann
  38. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  39. Binn Jakupi
  40. Hon. Letitia James
  41. Hon. Corey Johnson
  42. Camille Joseph
  43. Phillip Keane
  44. Greg Lambert
  45. Marc Landis
  46. Dodge Landesman
  47. Cameron McFadden
  48. Michael Mallon
  49. Mike C. Manning
  50. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  51. Artyom Matusov
  52. Hon. Carlos Menchaca
  53. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  54. John Cameron Mitchell
  55. Donny Moss
  56. Barry Mullineaux
  57. Ali Najmi
  58. Hon. Paul Newell
  59. Hon. Yuh-Line Niou
  60. Noah Pfefferbilt
  61. Bob Pontarelli
  62. Billy Porter
  63. Joe Pressley
  64. Hon. Jenifer Rajkumar
  65. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  66. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  67. Maer Roshan
  68. Toby Russo
  69. Bill Samuels
  70. James Sansum
  71. Scott Sartiano
  72. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  73. Lynn Schulman
  74. Hon. Rebecca Seawright
  75. Frank Selvaggi
  76. Rev. Al Sharpton
  77. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  78. Tom Smith
  79. David Spegal
  80. Marti Speranza
  81. Anne Strahle
  82. Hon. Scott Stringer
  83. Wayne Sunday
  84. Hon. Bill Thompson
  85. Hon. Matt Titone
  86. Hon. Ritchie Torres
  87. Sam Underwood
  88. Derek Walker
  89. Jessica Walter
  90. Patricia Nell Warren
  91. Kathleen Waterman
  92. Wil Weder
  93. Seth Weissman
  94. Mel Wymore
  95. Emma Wolfe
  96. Hon. Keith Wright
  97. Zephyr Teachout