State Finds “Extraordinary Significance” at 186 Spring Street; City Issues Demolition Permits
In September, GVSHP reached a historic milestone in our efforts to preserve 186 Spring Street, an 1824 house in the South Village which played an extraordinary role in the gay civil rights movement facing the threat of demolition by a developer. GVSHP documented that between 1970 and 1981, 186 Spring was home to three gay activists who had a huge impact on history – Jim Owles, Arnie Kantrowitz, and Bruce Voeller. Owles was the first openly gay person to run for public office in New York City, all three were involved with the introduction of the very first bill in the country banning discrimination based upon sexual orientation (21 States, the District of Columbia, and hundreds of municipalities and counties, including New York City and State, have since adopted such laws). Voeller co-lead the first delegation of gay rights leaders to meet with the White House, helped end the federal government’s ban on employing gay people, helped get homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental illnesses, and won the first Supreme Court case establishing rights for gay parents. And these are just a few of the extraordinary achievements of the residents of 186 Spring Street (read more HERE).
GVSHP provided this information to New York City, urging that they landmark the building, and to the New York State Historic Preservation Office, urging that they find the building qualifies for the State and National Registers of Historic Places (which provides incentives for preservation, but does not prevent demolition). We knew that getting the State to find 186 Spring Street eligible would be a heavy lift; only ONE other site in the entire country has ever been listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places for significance to gay history, the Stonewall Bar (site of the Stonewall Riots), and historic events such as these which took place within the last fifty years must meet the State’s highest standard of “extraordinary significance” to qualify.
In a historic move, that’s exactly what the State found, determining 186 Spring Street eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places (read HERE). GVSHP contacted the City, urging them to reconsider their prior decision not to landmark the site, as did State Senator Tom Duane and City Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Daniel Dromm. The City’s response: just a few days later they issued demolition permits for the building, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission adamantly refused to even hold a hearing on possible landmark designation. Sadly, the developer has now moved ahead with demolition of the nearly 200 year old home.