Protect Historic LGBT Sites in Greenwich Village, Preservationists Say

By Danielle Tcholakian on February 11, 2014 7:03am 

 Hundreds of people headed to The Stonewall Inn on June 26, 2013, the day the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
Hundreds of people headed to The Stonewall Inn on June 26, 2013, the day the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

WEST VILLAGE — Preservationists are pushing for extra protections for the Stonewall Inn and the bar Julius', citing the Village venues' role in the push for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

The Stonewall, at 52 Christopher St., and Julius', at 159 W. 10th St., are already largely protected from demolition because they are located in a historic district, but the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation is calling on the city to make them individual landmarks to ensure their history is not forgotten.

Julius' touts itself as the oldest gay bar in New York City. The Stonewall was the site of not only the 1969 riots that are widely considered the most important event to kickstart the modern LGBT rights movement, but also, 44 years later, celebrations when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.

"They're not getting the explicit protections and recognition that they should be getting," said Andrew Berman, GVSHP's executive director.

"It's very, very easy for this history to get lost to the sands of time, and that's one of the purposes of landmark designation — is to make sure that it's not lost, that it is recognized."

Both The Stonewall and Julius are part of the Greenwich Village Historic District, which means any changes to the buildings must be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. But the LPC's 1969 report on the district, detailing the significance of each building, was drafted two months prior to the Stonewall riots and therefore doesn't mention the buildings' role in the fight for LGBT rights.

To ensure that the history of The Stonewall and Julius' are remembered, Berman wants the LPC to either designate them as individual landmarks or to update the original 1969 landmarking report with more details on the buildings' cultural significance.

"We don't really want to leave these things to chance," Berman said. "It should be clear and explicit in terms of the designation reports."

 The Stonewall Inn.
The Stonewall Inn.
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DNAinfo/Chelsia Marcius

Berman and state Sen. Brad Hoylman recently wrote letters to LPC Chairman Robert Tierney requesting the landmarking changes.

The Landmarks Commission has received the letters and is "aware of the important history of The Stonewall Inn and Julius' Bar," said Heather McCracken, LPC spokeswoman.

The Stonewall and Julius are part of an ongoing LPC study aimed at protecting culturally significant buildings that are important to "groups that have historically been underrepresented among the city's designated landmarks," McCracken said. Recent examples include the historic black neighborhood of Addisleigh Park in Queens and the longstanding music venue Webster Hall in the East Village. 

The LPC will consider Berman's request, but McCracken said the commission's approach "would have to be balanced among various issues, including the Commission's overall workload, potential regulatory issues and the need to make the designation process as inclusive as possible."

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