Colman Domingo
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NYC to Landmark Historic LGBTQ Buildings, Incl. James Baldwin’s Home

Baldwin

New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission is moving forward on protecting six sites that played a role in LGBTQ history and culture, The New York Times reports.

Five of the six buildings are in districts already conferred with historic status, though the extra designation will make it more difficult for owners to remodel the buildings or developers to tear them down. 

One of the most notable of the six structures being considered is James Baldwin's apartment, on 71st Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Though the legendary gay author of Giovanni's Room and Go Tell It on the Mountain spent most of his time in Paris, he often returned to his New York apartment — which he bought in 1965 — to work and confab with other writers. Baldwin's niece described the building as humming with energy every time Baldwin returned to it.

The owner of Baldwin's apartment building said he was happy to honor the writer and activist, but that the landmark status would make it more difficult to update the edifice, which he called "not very good-looking."

Also considered for landmark status is a four-story Greenwich Village building that hosted live theater in the 1950s and '60s and is considered the birthplace of the off-off-Broadway scene. Many productions with gay themes were staged at Caffe Cino on Cordelia Street, and the gay writers John Guare (Six Degrees of Separation) and Lanford Wilson (Fifth of July) got their starts there. 

One building that will especially benefit from the landmark status is a former firehouse in Chelsea that once housed the Women's Liberation Center; it still serves women's causes, as a training center for female construction and maintenance workers. The brick structure on 20th Street is not within a historic district and its proposed landmark status will protect it from those who hope to alter or destroy it. Meanwhile, the former home of the Gay Liberation Front, on 14th Street, has not been protected and a developer plans to demolish it.

The most famous LGBTQ site in New York, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, has already been landmarked and was designated a national monument in 2015.

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