Firestone ‘feminist apartment’ idea

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  A memorial for radical feminist Shulamith Firestone drew 100 to 150 people to St. Mark’s Church on E. 10th St. on Sunday. Along with Firestone’s family members, many prominent figures in the women’s movement from the 1960s and ’70s were in attendance.

“Feminists flew in from all over the country,” said a local feminist, who requested anonymity due to the private nature of the invitation-only event.

Firestone, 67, died toward the end of August. Her body was discovered in her East Village apartment possibly about a week after her death. In 1970 at age 25, she had shot to fame with her best-selling book, “The Dialectic of Sex,” which advocated for producing babies cybernetically in labs to free women from their oppressive gender role. However, she later descended into mental illness, shutting herself off from the world. She ping-ponged between hospital stays and periods living back at home.

According to the source, the idea was broached at the memorial of making Firestone’s fifth-floor apartment at 213 E. 10th St. a dedicated, affordable residence for an older feminist from the East Village. Firestone had lived in the rent-stabilized unit since 1992 and was reportedly paying a very low rent.

“The idea would be to earmark it for feminists who could not otherwise afford to stay in the neighborhood,” the woman said, adding the rent should not exceed $1,100.

She said they plan to reach out to Bob Perl, the building’s landlord, to see if an agreement can be reached. If Perl declines, she said, they’ll start a petition drive for the cause.

Perl, however, was not sold on the idea.

“For older feminists, living on the fifth floor of a walk-up house is not sensible,” he said. “It’s not really well thought-out. And who’s going to decide who gets to live there?

“In New York, a lot of famous and important people have died and shrines aren’t erected in their apartments,” Perl noted. “If there was a shrine set up for every significant figure who lived in Manhattan, there’d be a lot fewer apartments available.”

Perl said he was a good landlord to Firestone, implying that her living there wasn’t always easy on neighbors, though not stating that directly.

“You can ask her family if I treated her well,” he said. “I went out of my way to work with her and her family so that she could have as comfortable a life as possible.”

Perl said advocates for the feminist apartment can contact him at his business, Tower Brokerage.