October 8, 2012

To the Editor:

186 Spring Street, an historic site of great importance to the LGBT community is now being demolished (“Spring Street Gay History Site Denied Landmark Status,” by Duncan Osborne, Aug. 29-Sep. 11). If the Stonewall riots were the LGBT community’s Boston Tea Party, then 186 Spring Street may well have been its Independence Hall. Our city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has never landmarked a site due to its connection to LGBT history and here they had a perfect, high-profile opportunity to start making up for this.

By way of an explanation, the LPC offered that the largely intact, 190-year-old townhouse lacked architectural merit due to alterations, even though nearby there are several buildings that are much younger and have been altered much more (including a gas station) that they had no compunction about landmarking previously. Meanwhile, at 339 West 29th Street, an 1840s townhouse that is Manhattan’s only verifiable Underground Railroad safehouse, though landmarked, is in danger of being seriously compromised –– and LPC and the Department of Buildings have been frustratingly slow in responding.

I volunteer with some of our city’s nearly 4,000 homeless youth, most of them people of color and LGBT. They could benefit from having such historic sites to visit. I worry that the year will end with two important monuments to the struggle for freedom having been sacrificed to real estate interests. We deserve better.

Laurence Frommer



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