The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) is calling on the city to recognize six key sites in the struggles for LGBTQ, African-American, and women’s rights with landmark designations.
According to the organization, the city has been refusing to consider designation of locations including the original home of the nation’s oldest ongoing LGBTQ advocacy group, the site where an anti-lynching campaign was launched by a pioneering African-American civil rights organization, and the headquarters of the New York women’s suffrage movement.
“At a time when we are seeking to recognize the value and contributions of African Americans, women, and the LGBT community, it is puzzling and frustrating that Mayor de Blasio, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, and [City] Councilmember [Carlina] Rivera won’t support honoring and protecting these sites which are so crucial to the history of these groups and their struggles for equality,” Andrew Berman, GVSHP’s out gay executive director, said in a written statement. “For two years we have been waging this campaign and are yet to see progress from these city officials.”
Berman’s statement, however, did not take account of a November 12, 2019 letter Rivera sent to de Blasio and the LPC pointing to “missing information and flawed analysis” in the environmental assessment of Union Square area redevelopment plans. Among many historic sites Rivera singled out were four of the five locations GVSHP focused on its recent press release.
Among the buildings for which GVSHP is seeking landmark designation include:
80 Fifth Avenue (at 14th Street), a 1908 Renaissance Revival style building that was the original headquarters of the National Gay Task Force (now the National LGBTQ Task Force), the oldest ongoing national queer rights organization, from its founding in 1973 until 1985. The building also housed, from 1930 to 1954, the headquarters of the International Workers Order (IWO), a mutual benefit fraternal organization that led trailblazing fights against Jim Crow and discrimination against Jews and immigrants and fought for racial integration in professional sports and the workplace.
70 Fifth Avenue (at 13th Street), a 1912 Beaux Arts style office building where the NAACP began its anti-lynching campaign and flew its “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday” flag. During that era, the group also launched drives against discrimination and segregation as well as defamatory portrayals in media such as the film 1915 film “Birth of A Nation.” It was also at 70 Fifth that The Crisis magazine began, the first magazine published for a black readership, edited by W.E.B. DuBois and with contributions from Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen. The building was also a hub of left-wing progressive activism and housed an organization dedicated to stopping the Armenian Genocide as well as the Women’s Peace Movement.
55 Fifth Avenue (at 12th Street), an 18-story neo-Renaissance style office building from 1912 where record producer and civil rights activist John Hammond produced the first integrated musical recordings. Artists such as Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Benny Carter, and Ethel Waters recorded there. The building also housed W.W. Norton & Company, which published Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” from there.
10 East 14th Street, an 1884 cast-iron structure that served as the headquarters of the New York City Woman Suffrage League beginning in 1894.
17 East 13th Street (between Fifth Avenue and University Place), which housed the personal printing press of bisexual feminist writer Anais Nin, who personally supervised and designed the printing of her works, which explored themes of sexuality and the psyche in the 1940s.
Editor’s note: The original posting of this story did not note City Councilmember Carlina Rivera’s November 2019 letter to the mayor and the LPC pointing to the historic significance of the properties discussed above in her comments on plans to redevelop the Union Square area. To sign up for the Gay City News email newsletter, visit gaycitynews.com/newsletter.