A portion of the historic Stonewall Inn, commonly regarded as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, faces being put back on the commercial market thanks to increased pressure from landlords to sign a high-priced, long-term lease, according to exclusive reporting by the DailyBeast
In a statement to The Daily Beast, the building’s owners, listed only as Christopher and Seventh Realty, LLC, said last week that the ultimatum is the result of Pride Live not providing a “substantive response” to a proposal made in April. “We would like to reach a resolution in a timely manner and believe we have a fair proposal on the table.”
The DailyBeast reported the week-long countdown was set to end yesterday, June 10. No new details have been released as to the future of 51 Christopher Street. The property is not currently listed on publicly available commercial real estate listings as of press time.
The portion of Stonewall in question lies at 51 Christopher Street. The address hosts a currently empty storefront next to the original Stonewall Inn bar, located at 53 Christopher Street, where 1969 riots sparked the gay liberation movement. Various businesses have occupied the space in the decades since, but recent efforts have pushed for the space to house a permanent ranger station, visitor center and community space to commemorate the designated National Monument.
But last Thursday, shortly after Interior Secretary Deb Haaland posed for photos at the location, the building’s owners issued an ultimatum to Pride Live, the National Park Service and National Parks Conservation Association after two years of intense negotiations over the space. According to The Daily Beast, the owners informed Pride Live it had one week to sign a long-term lease.
Details of the negotiations have not been disclosed, but similar locations in the area easily reach six figures annually. That price tag is steep, especially against the millions it could potentially cost to renovate 51 Christopher Street for its proposed purpose. The obstacle becomes even more daunting when factoring in the economic hit Stonewall and other businesses in Greenwich experienced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The landmark bar nearly shut down permanently last summer. According to Eater, a series of GoFundMe campaigns helped raise funds to keep the bar afloat as it was forced to shut its doors for months, similarly to other New York City businesses, due to pandemic restrictions. The Gill Foundation donated $250,000 to the cause as well.
“There is a need to preserve LGBTQ+ history and connect the Stonewall legacy to a new generation of community members and allies,” said Pride Live founder and president Diana Rodriguez. The organization hosted its annual Stonewall Day celebration earlier this week as the clock ticked down on the 51 Christopher Street ultimatum. She declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations with the owners of 51 Christopher Street.
“During the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, we learned how precarious the history of our movement is,” said Tim Gill, founder of the Gill Foundation. “It’s problematic that our movement doesn’t own these key pieces that mark our brave activism and social agitation, and that we continue to be subjected to the whims and winds of the New York real estate market … It shows how easily we can be exploited to protect our own story.”
This is the latest in a history of complications stemming from the Stonewall Inn remaining privately owned despite President Barack Obama designating it as a National Monument in 2016 and the property being separated into two unique spaces. The lack of a dedicated visitor center resulted in National Park Rangers handing out information about the monument from an SUV outside the building in the five years since its designation.
Stonewall: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of Daniel Case/Creative Commons