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LGBT Community Center photo

THE HISTORY OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY CENTER
208 WEST 13TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY



This webpage is under construction. At this point it is NOT ACCURATE or considered complete enough to be publicly published. I am using it to ask others to give their memories and facts of what happened. There were many people who had input in creating the home we have today; and sadly some of no longer alive to tell their story.

When the process is completed, then it will be published for use; and I will remove this paragraph. Some of the people I will ask are Marcy Kahn, Tom Burrows, Steve Ashkinazy, Steve Ault, Alan Roskoff, etc.


INTRODUCTION

Earlier this year someone wrote a letter to the editor for the Gay City News and included how the Center was given to the community for one dollar by Mayor Dinkins. I wrote a letter back explaining how wrong that was on so many accounts, and realized that the exact story of how the LGBT Community Center came about was not really well understood.

In the late 1970's I was working for the City of New York's Department of General Services' Division of Real Property. The building at 208 West 13th Street was one of my projects. I was first a Real Estate appraiser for the Division and at that time conducted the appraisal for the building when its doors were first locked. Later that year I became the Executive Director of Real Estate Development for the Division and was involved with the ULURP and first leasehold auction for the building. I left my job with the City after the Caring Community's lease was terminated and the negotiations began with the LGBT community. I had no direct involvement with the process from that point on. So I wrote down what I remembered about the first part of this webpage and will get those directly involved to fill in the rest. There were many people who had input into creating our home; sad to say that some are no longer alive to tell their story.



HISTORY OF THE BUILDING AT 208 WEST 13TH STREET, MANHATTAN


FROM CONSTRUCTION UNTIL THE CLOSING OF THE HIGH SCHOOL


  • Construction Date and Use as Elementary School: The building at 208 West 13th Street was built c.1869 as Public School 16. The building was converted into a community center in 1997 by Francoise Bollack, and is currently the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Services Center, which bought the building in 1983.

  • Food & Maritime High School: The Food and Maritime Trades Vocational High School was expanded c.1859 and c.1899 by C.B.J. Snyder. By the 1970's it was in a joint program with a ship docked at the Christopher Street pier (now only the wooden poles stick up from the Hudson at the location near Morton Street)called the John Bowne. At its peak there were two ships docked there for the high school students to learn the maritime trades.

  • Fiscal Crisis of the 1970's : During the mid 1970's, NYC was experiencing urban flight and a massive phenomena of landlord's abandoning their buildings to the City in a in-rem tax foreclosure procedure. Since the population at large was decreasing, the number of public school students was also dropping. The City also had limited funds to keep schools open if they were not fully occupied. The Department of City Planning created a unit to examine which schools (also hospitals, fire houses, courthouses etc.) had to be closed. Over 300 public buildings were closed during this fiscal crisis era.In the West Village two schools were closed. One being the King Street School and the other being the Food and Maritime High School.

  • Closing of the Food & Maritime High School The school was closed on ....... and it was then transferred to the Mayor's jurisdiction for maintenance and disposition.

    FROM CLOSING OF THE HIGH SCHOOL UNTIL THE NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE LGBT COMMUNITY


  • Disposition Process : At the end of the Beame Administration many of these closed schools and former public buildings were leased to various community groups on $1 a year month-to-month lease. In this way, no ULURP* process was required as a sale or long term lease would mandate. These $1 a year leases were very political and were given when certain local political figures were able to work out a deal with the Mayor's Office. But when the Koch Administration came into office, one of the first things to be examined were the $1 yr leases. The Mayor then decided that the former policy was not transparent or fair and the structures were not being well maintained. The new policy was that each community tenant would have to pay "fair market value" if they wanted to keep their surplused building. If they were a viable group, then they would have to bid against developers at a public auction. This proved fatal to most groups since developers could out bid them for luxury housing projects. That was the fate of the King Street School and the former Police Storage House at the corner at 196 Sixth Avenue.

  • Appraisal Process An appraisal was originally done as part of the initial process for disposition for all properties to be sold. I prepared the initial "Fair Market Appraisal" after the building was vacated.

  • ULURP* Process : Since 19.... the disposition of surplus property (and other land use matters such as zoning changes) go through Section 197C of the Charter which is called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP. It involves going to the Community Board Committee, then the full Community Board for a recommendation, then to the City Planning Commission for a recommendation and then to the Board of Estimate for a final vote. (The Board of Estimate was determined to be unconstitutional since each borough got one vote regardless of population) and now the City Council has the final vote.) The Mayor, Comptroller and City Council President (now Speaker)had two votes on the Board of Estimate and each Borough President got one vote a piece for a total of 11 votes. A winning vote required 6 votes. Community Board #2 voted to allow the disposition of the former Food and Maritime High School, but added a recommendation that the parcel have a Deed Restriction that is can only be used for "Community Facility - Use Group 3) zoning purposes. This would eliminate real estate developers from bidding for a site to develop for luxury housing. This was a rarely used move since most were denied at the Board of Estimate. The former Police Headquarters at 240 Centre Street was also able to get such a Deed Restriction, but it only covered the cellar area. The Deed Restriction for 208 West 13th Street covered the entire site and it was approved by the Board of Estimate for disposition as either a sale or long term lease. (research the actual vote) The building along with the Women's Fire House was not listed in the Developer's Guide and it was hopeful that both would be used by the local community.

  • Long Term Lease Auction to the Caring Community: At the time the vast majority of the surplus properties were sold at monthly real estate auctions. But since this building had a "community facility deed restriction" the initial concept was to hold a Long Term Lease Auction to determine the final lessee. The major legal tool for disposition was the auction process. Two major groups entered the picture. One was the Caring Community and the other was a educational program for students to learn how to cook and then distribute the cooked food to soup kitchens. They figured that they could use all of the food preparation equipment that was still in the High School. The auction was held and the Caring Community was the highest bidder and obtained a ten year lease.

  • Termination of Long Term Lease : After a few months, it was clear that the Caring Community was not able to use the space for the use intended in the lease and the lease was terminated and the building was taken back to the jurisdiction of the Division of Real Property for disposition.

  • CLGR Committee to find a location for a "Gay & Lesbian Community Center": At this time, Tom Smith head up a committee from CLGR to find a community center for the gay and lesbian community. Initially the ground floor or cellar of the Archive Building was the target goal for the community center, but the Community Board did NOT put a Deed Restriction on the disposition of this property and not favorable to the concept of a Gay and Lesbian Community Center on Christopher Street. But the idea was floating around.

    FROM THE NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE LGBT COMMUNITY TO THE OPENING OF THE CENTER


  • Mayor's Office Willing to Consider a Sale Rather Than Lease Concept for the Building: When the building returned to the Division of Real Property no one was sure as to what the next step would be. The initial indication was to hold another auction for either a long term lease or a sale. The main disposition policy was that it had to bring in income and be at the "fair market value". No more $1 a year leases (whether month-to-month or long term) were being made; and the existing ones were being terminated. Somehow the community would have to come up with the money, if the City was going to find a way to usurp the auction process and have a directly negotiated sale.

  • Manhattan Borough President's Local Development Corporation : A local development corporation, (Section 14-11 of the State Not For Profit Law..... get exact citation) stated that the City could sell a property to an entity if it would create economic development. But it had to be at "Fair Market Value". It was debateable at first to determine if a community center could even be considered "economic development". But that is the route that was explored for the building at 208 West 13th Street; and the people pushing for it were coming from the Manhattan Borough President's Office. They had their own LDC and were willing to use it as a means of conveyance. The Mayor's Office also had an LDC, namely the Public Development Corporation (PDC)but they were not interested.

  • Board of Estimate Members Support:

  • Negotiations on Sales Price :

  • Search for Funds from the LGBT Community :

  • Board of Estimate Vote:

  • Preparing Documents for Sale and Purchase Money Mortgage :

  • Creating a Steering Committee and then a Board of Directors:

  • Initial Construction to Open Center:





  • PERSONAL ACCOUNTS FROM OTHER PARTICIPANTS

    PERSON 1

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    PERSON 2

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