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. Charles Bayor
  5. John Blair
  6. Mark Benoit
  7. Hon. Rodneyse Bichotte
  8. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  9. Erik Bottcher
  10. Robin Byrd
  11. Hon. Gale Brewer
  12. Christian Campbell
  13. Gus Christensen
  14. Hon. Martin Connor
  15. Tom Connor
  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. James Duff
  27. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  28. Hon. Rafael Espinal
  29. Hon. Alan Fleishman
  30. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  31. Dan Gettleman
  32. Jason Goldman
  33. Emily Jane Goodman
  34. Hon. Mark Green
  35. Tony Hoffmann
  36. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  37. Binn Jakupi
  38. Hon. Letitia James
  39. Hon. Corey Johnson
  40. Camille Joseph
  41. Phillip Keane
  42. Yetta Kurland
  43. Dodge Landesman
  44. Chris Marchitello
  45. Phillip McCarthy
  46. Matt McMorrow
  47. Michael Mallon
  48. Mike C. Manning
  49. David Mansur
  50. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  51. Troy Masters
  52. Hon. Carlos Menchaca
  53. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  54. John Cameron Mitchell
  55. Donny Moss
  56. Barry Mullineaux
  57. Hon. Paul Newell
  58. Denis O'Hare
  59. America Olivo Campbell
  60. Noah Pfefferbilt
  61. Josue Pierre
  62. Bob Pontarelli
  63. Billy Porter
  64. Hon. Keith Powers
  65. Randy Rainbow
  66. Hon. Jenifer Rajkumar
  67. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  68. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  69. Maer Roshan
  70. Toby Russo
  71. Bill Samuels
  72. James Sansum
  73. Scott Sartiano
  74. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  75. Lynn Schulman
  76. Frank Selvaggi
  77. Rev. Al Sharpton
  78. David Siffert
  79. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  80. Kathy Slawinski
  81. Tom Smith
  82. Anne Strahle
  83. Hon. Scott Stringer
  84. Wayne Sunday
  85. Hon. Bill Thompson
  86. JD Thompson
  87. Bjorn Thorstad
  88. Hon. Matt Titone
  89. Sam Underwood
  90. Jessica Walter
  91. Patricia Nell Warren
  92. Barry Weinberg
  93. Seth Weissman
  94. Hon. Jumaane Williams
  95. Emma Wolfe
  96. Hon. Keith Wright
  97. Zephyr Teachout