This weekend, the city will celebrate the achievements of the LGBT community during the annual pride parade. But some preservationists want City Hall to do more — and formally recognize as landmarks sites central to the gay rights movement. Our Michael Scotto has the story.
This 19th century building in Greenwich Village is home to Julius' — a gay bar that played a pivotal role in the gay rights movement more than 51 years ago.
It was here that Dick Leitsch and fellow gay rights activists challenged a common practice by bars of refusing to serve drinks to gay people.
What they did became known as a "sip-in."
"This is the first time we ever had a demonstration, and we really didn't know what we were doing," said activist Leitsch.
The "sip-in" is the main reason Julius' is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. However, the building is not a city landmark, and preservationists say it should be, because only that designation, they argue, would prevent it from being altered or demolished.
"We want to make sure that its future is safe and secure and that the incredibly important history that took place here is honored and protected," said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
The only official city landmark connected to the gay rights movement is the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots considered the start of the gay rights movement. It was named a national monument last year.
Preservationist Andrew Berman wants the city to recognize other important sites to the fight for equality — including this former firehouse in SoHo, which was home to an early gay rights group, and the LGBT Community Center on 13th Street. It is in this room that the group ACT UP held its first meetings to combat the AIDS crisis.
"They were very emotional, they were very empowering," Berman said.
The landmarks commission insists the buildings are currently protected because they sit inside existing historic districts. But the agency says it will look at ways to formally recognize them as spots pivotal to the gay rights movement. Dick Leitsch says that's important.
"The gay bar is the most historic place in the gay world," Leitsch said. "And Julius' is what makes them historical. It reminds people that this is the world of gay people. This is where the gay world began."