On and Off 14th Street, Fighting to Recognize and Preserve Our City’s Diverse Histories
Gotham Gazette has published on op-ed from Village Preservation about our fight to secure landmark protections for an array of sites on and just off 14th Street that represent so much about the diverse histories of New York City. These sites — key to the stories of African Americans, Hispanics, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and disabled New Yorkers — share two things in common. Several are imminently endangered. And all have been proposed for landmark designation by Village Preservation, but the city has so far failed to act. They include the first church in New York for a Spanish-speaking congregation, the home of one of 19th century New York’s leading fighters for African American voting rights and emancipation, the headquarters of the country’s first national gay rights organization and the headquarters of the organization which led the fight for women’s suffrage in New York, and an institution which has provided groundbreaking care and services for people with visual and hearing disabilities for over two centuries.
Village Preservation, as well as other preservation organizations and communities across the city, has been prioritizing recognizing and ensuring the preservation of sites that tell our diverse collective histories, especially those of traditionally marginalized or underrepresented groups, and particularly those connected to struggles for civil rights. This includes our proposed South of Union Square Historic District in which two of the five buildings we highlight in the op-ed are located, and which contains a vast array of sites connected to African American, LGBTQ+, women’s, immigrant, and labor history.
Two years ago, the Landmarks Preservation Commission presented what it called an “Equity Framework” aimed at ensuring these kinds of histories are recognized and preserved. However, progress has been slow, and important sites continue to be ignored by the City, especially when powerful forces want a free hand to develop and erase them. And even local elected officials like City Councilmember Carlina Rivera have withheld support for many of these efforts.