Target: The Landmark Preservation Committee of New York
Goal: Prevent demolition of historic LGBTQ building
A group of gay activists recently gathered outside 186 Spring Street, New York City , as part of a continued attempt to save the building from being demolished to make room for new condominiums. 186 Spring Street once served as a gay commune where homosexual men could come, stay, and go freely as they sought out a permanent, safe living situation. It was also a headquarters for AIDS activists working in the 1970s.
Former residents of 186 Spring Street included Jim Owles, the first openly gay candidate for public office, and Dr. Bruce Voeller, the man who got homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. The space was purchased several months ago by a Canadian developer named Stephane Boivin. At the time, Boivin publicly promised to preserve the house. However, he has since then reneged on the promise and proceeded with plans which will destroy the building in order to make room for new condominiums.
186 Spring Street could still be saved if it was declared a historic site by New York’s Landmark Preservation Committee. However, the committee does not share activist’s perception of the building as worth preserving for, if nothing else, its architecture, due to the building having been altered and remodeled multiple times since it was originally erected in 1824. Nonetheless, this does not negate the historic importance of the building to the gay community, nor its potential future value to LGBTQ youth seeking to know their history (it should be noted that the committee has not yet declared any gay landmarks in New York City to be worthy of preservation). Ask the Landmark Preservation Committee to take this historic value into account and act to save 186 Spring Street from demolition.
Dear New York Landmark Preservation Committee,
I am writing to you concerning the case which is currently being made to preserve the building at 186 Spring Street as a historic landmark. Although it is true that there have been many alterations made to the building since it was erected in 1824, the extent to which the building has been a site of major historic significance for the gay community cannot be underestimated. That alone should bestow enough value upon it for it to be preserved. Current plans by the building’s owner will result in it being demolished this September to make room for condominiums, but this fate can be avoided if you declare the building a historic site worthy of preservation.
A preserved 186 Spring Street might serve in the future as an incredible tool for teaching LGBTQ youth about their community’s history. Though the current generation may not be inspired by it, the next might find such tangible history invaluable. It is worthy of note that your committee has not yet declared any gay landmarks in New York to be historic sites, although many sites that were of value to the women’s movement or African-American community have been so declared. Preserving 186 Spring Street would be an excellent first step towards documenting LGBTQ history for future generations. I urge you to take this into consideration and to rethink your decision.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Flickr via Grufnik