Johnson hints L.G.B.T. landmarks to come

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | City Council Speaker Corey Johnson was honored at this year’s Historic Districts Council Grassroots Preservation Awards on April 30. Appropriately, the ceremony was held at New York City’s oldest chapel, St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, in the East Village.

In his acceptance speech, the longtime preservation advocate hinted at some big landmarkings to come.

“I am pretty hopeful that with Tin Pan Alley being heard today, I think we are going to have some exciting announcements in the next six weeks on L.G.B.T. historic sites for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, he said.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson giving remarks at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery after winning a Grassroots Preservation Award from the Historic Districts Council. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

According to Andrew Berman, the executive director of Village Preservation (formerly Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation), Johnson has spoken with the nonprofit about their years-long campaign to have Julius’ bar, the L.G.B.T. Community Center and the former Gay Activists Alliance firehouse landmarked.

The speaker supports the landmarking of all three sites, along with others outside of Village Preservation’s coverage area, according to Berman.

Johnson’s office could not provide any information on which of the city’s dozens of L.G.B.T. historic properties would be landmarked by mid-June.

When he was a member of Community Board 4, Johnson helped initiate surveys of the district’s unprotected historic buildings. Those efforts are now serving as the basis for requests for evaluating Hell’s Kitchen’s first historic districts, according to Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council.

During his tenure on the City Council, Johnson advocated for the designation of the South Village Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, which was finally landmarked in 2017, and for increased landmark protections in Greenwich Village.

Johnson, who referred to himself as a preservationist during his speech, also advocated for landmarking the Stonewall Inn, designated in 2015, and strongly opposed an addition to the landmarked Hopper Gibbons House. Most recently, Johnson is helping lead the charge to designate Tin Pan Alley — the stretch of 28th St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves. where composers, lyricists and sheet music publishers created many of the songs in the Great American Songbook.

In its annual awards, H.D.C. recognizes advocates for outstanding work in preserving historically important buildings and spaces. This year, in addition to Johnson, also receiving awards were the Coalition to Save the Former Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, the Elmhurst History and Cemeteries Preservation Society, the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.