Two incredibly important events in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender) history and civil rights with recent or upcoming anniversaries took place in Greenwich Village.

One of course is the Stonewall Riots, the 50th anniversary of which will take place in June and be marked by hundreds of events in New York City and hundreds of thousands of visitors participating in commemorations and celebrations. In 1999 on the 30th anniversary, Village Preservation was co-applicant for listing Stonewall on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the first site ever listed for its connections to LGBT history. In 2015, after a year and a half campaign led by Village Preservation, the Stonewall was landmarked by New York City, offering the concrete protections National Register listing does not, and marking the very first time a site was landmarked by New York City for its significance to LGBT history.

The other less well known but still exceptionally significant event was the “Sip In” at Julius’ Bar at 159 West 10th Street (Waverly Place) on April 21, 1966, an early protest against the systematic harassment of LGBT people and the criminalizing of their gathering together in public. A full three years before the Stonewall Riots, this civil disobedience action based upon ‘sit ins’ staged throughout the South helped lead to the end of the de facto ban upon gay bars and other gathering spaces for LGBT people. In 2012, Village Preservation secured a determination of eligibility for Julius’ for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, one of only a handful of places at that time to be so recognized after the 1999 Stonewall designation.

In the intervening years, dozens of sites across the country have been recognized for their contributions to LGBT history and the struggle for civil rights by State and the Federal government, and in 2016, Stonewall was designated a National Historic Monument.  But New York City continues to lag behind in the recognition and protection of LGBT history sites, with Stonewall still the only landmark designated in New York based upon LGBT history.

Village Preservation has been seeking to correct that.  In 2014 along with the Stonewall Inn, we proposed Julius’ Bar, the LGBT Community Services Center, and former Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse for landmark designation based upon their significance to LGBT history and civil rights struggles.  For the past five years, we have been waging a campaign to secure the recognition and protection these sites deserve, but so far the City has not acted.

With the recent “Sip In” anniversary and the upcoming Stonewall50 celebrations, it’s time to tell the City to step up and finally recognize these and other LGBT history sites as the landmarks that they are.

April 23, 2019