Architectural richness and the romance of a time gone by help to define today’s Flatiron District. Since April 2007, the BID staff has been highlighting the area’s most historic structures as well as some of the people and businesses that have either thrived here for decades or are noteworthy for other reasons.

Oct 22, 2020

Discover Flatiron: Corinne Roosevelt Robinson & The 1920 Presidential Election

This year marks the centennial passage by Congress of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote and marked their first-time participation in a presidential election. In honor of these history-making achievements, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership highlights the life of political activist, published poet, and Flatiron native Corinne Roosevelt Robinson. She was the first woman to address a presidential convention, and was the younger sister of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, a distant cousin of fellow Commander-in-Chief Franklin D. Roosevelt, and an aunt of FDR’s First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Born on September 27, 1861, Corinne was the youngest of four children of businessman and philanthropist Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., and his wife Martha Bulloch. The family’s residence, a three-story brownstone with a backyard, was located at 28 East 20th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South. “The first recollections of a child are dim and hazy, and so the nursery at 28 East 20th Street, in New York City, does not stand out as clearly to me as I wish it did—but the personality of my brother overshadowed the room, as his personality all through life dominated his environment,” wrote Corinne in her memoir My Brother Theodore Roosevelt

Left to right: Theodore Roosevelt, age 14; Elliott Roosevelt, age 13; Maud Elliott, age 12; and Corinne Roosevelt, age 11. (Photo via My Brother Theodore Roosevelt by Corinne Roosevelt Robinson)

Educated by private tutors and at the exclusive Miss Comstock’s School, Corinne was an aspiring poet and writer. One of her playmates included Edith Kermit Carow, who would become the First Lady and second wife of Corinne’s brother Theodore. Corinne, too, married at the age of 20 to Scottish-born financier and real estate broker Douglas Robinson on April 29, 1882. The couple had four children, Theodore, Corinne, Monroe, and Douglas, and the Robinsons maintained homes in Orange, New Jersey and in the Adirondacks. 

In addition to life as a wife and mother, Corinne’s passion for the written word, as well as encouragement from Flatiron friend and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edith Wharton, led to a writing career. Corinne’s first published poem was "The Call of Brotherhood" in 1911. Other published works included One Woman to Another and Other Poems (1914), Service and Sacrifice (1919), and My Brother Theodore Roosevelt (1921).

26th U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt. (Photo via My Brother Theodore Roosevelt by Corinne Roosevelt Robinson)

Corinne greatly admired her brother Theodore’s politics. During Theodore’s tenure as a statesman, she “supported TR’s political aspirations, frequently hosting dinner parties and roundtable discussions in her home,” writes The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. “Corinne, who made regular visits to the Executive Mansion during TR’s presidency, later commented that she and her brother would frequently engage in all-night discussions.” Corinne was politcally active herself, and reportedly “in great demand as a speaker” for the Republican National Executive Committee.

Corinne was a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, which led to the June 4, 1920 passage and the August 18th ratification of the 19th Amendment. However, during the suffrage movement, many Black women continued to experience discrimination from white suffragists. In Catherine Rymph's book Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism From Suffrage Through the Rise of the New Right, she wrote that the Executive Committee, where Corinne was a member, was all white and that “a black woman, Lethia Fleming of Cleveland, was selected to head a separate black women’s advisory committee that was assembled for the 1920 presidential campaign.”

A group from the Cincinnati chapter of the League of Women Voters stands in front of a board showing voter registration by city ward. (Photo by Library of Congress / Corbis / VCG via Getty Images)

With the 1920 presidential campaign underway and just four days following the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Republican party commenced their nearly week-long presidential nomination convention in Chicago. Here, Corinne became the first woman called upon to second the nomination of a national party convention candidate. She nominated U.S. Army Major General Leonard Wood, who served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during Theodore’s administration, to head the top of the Republican team’s ticket. The delegates, however, decided to go with Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding, who later won the presidential election along with vice presidential choice Calvin Coolidge on November 2, 1920, defeating Democratic opponent James M. Cox and his running mate and Corinne’s cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

“Suffragettes, such as Corinne Roosevelt Robinson...adamantly promoted support for the Republican candidates,” notes the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. And many “Republicans saw a chance for millions of new voters to turn out at the polls supporting the Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.” That election year, “more than 8 million women across the U.S. voted in elections for the first time”.

Corinne Roosevelt (top left) at the 1920 Republican Convention. (Photo by Underwood & Underwood: Library of Congress)

After the 1920 election, Corinne retained an active role in Republican politics, which included an advisory committee post during presidential candidate Calvin Coolidge’s campaign. She also later worked with nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. According to the New York Times, Corinne had formed the New York City Committee for Fatherless Children of France and served as the group’s temporary chairman and also its secretary.

However, with failing health, which included 16 eye surgeries, Corinne withdrew from her work as a political and nonprofit advocate. She died of pleural pneumonia at her Upper East Side home at the age of 71 on February 17, 1933. In her poem Life, A Question, Corinne shared these words on the subject: "Life? and worth living? Yes, with each part of us–Hurt of us, help of us, hope of us, heart of us. Life is worth living.”

Header Photo Credit: Library of Congress / Corbis / VCG via Getty Images
Thumbnail Photo Credit:  Underwood & Underwood: Library of Congress 

Oct 9, 2020

Discover Flatiron: Hershey’s Chocolate and Chewing Gum Factory

As Halloween lovers young and old prepare for All Hallows' Eve with safety protocols in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership offers this historic look at the launch of Hershey’s Chocolate and Chewing Gum Factory in the area. A century ago, the candy manufacturer was an integral business on Sixth Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets, and is now a site occupied by signature grocery chain Trader Joe’s.

With his declared dedication to the making of chocolate, Milton S. Hershey established the Hershey Chocolate Company in central Pennsylvania in 1894. “Using equipment purchased at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition,” writes The Hershey Story, “Milton Hershey began experimenting with boiled milk, sugar, and cacao beans in an effort to create affordable milk chocolate that could be mass-produced. In a few years, he perfected his recipe and by 1903 was breaking ground for a new factory in the town that bears his name,” Hershey, Pennsylvania.

A casual meeting with a cousin in 1915, however, led Hershey to consider a new product for his company. According to the Hershey Community Archives, Milton Hershey and Clayton Snavely were strolling on Atlantic City’s boardwalk when they noticed a billboard advertisement for Wrigley Gum. Milton told Clayton, “Beech Nut-Gum has been a phenomenal success. It has gone to their heads, and they think they’re going to put the name Beech-Nut on chocolate and put Hershey out of business. Well, there’s only one way to meet fire. It’s to fight it with fire. I’m thinking about doing something in the chewing gum line.” Soon the Hershey brand "Easy Chew" was born.

Hershey's Mint Flavor Chewing Gum via The Hershey Community Archives.

By 1919, the Pennsylvania company’s booming chewing gum and chocolate production expanded to a New York City property that then bore the address of 675-691 Sixth Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Street. At the time, Hershey's made “chocolate coating and some bar goods [and] chewing gum”.

Hershey’s move to Manhattan got plenty of press. “One of the largest chocolate making concerns, owners of an entire town, have selected for their local headquarters one of the abandoned Sixth Avenue department stores for which they will pay more than $62,000 a year in rental,” wrote The Sun in 1917 about the company’s partial relocation to the City. And according to the Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide, “The lease was made necessary by the growth of the business and the many advantages to the company of having a portion of its plant in the metropolitan district of New York.”

Sixth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets in 1978 by Edward V. Gillon via Museum of the City of New York.

Prior to Hershey’s 1919 occupancy in the building, the Sixth Avenue property was initially created for retailer Samuel A. Adams and his dry goods firm. Designed by Theodore De Lemos and August Cordes, and the team later behind Macy’s at Herald Square, the stunning six-story Beaux-Arts structure was erected between 1900 and 1902. “Three handsome entrances on Sixth Avenue will give access to the store, each flanked by pilasters of polished granite, with artistic bronze scroll work,” reported The New York Times on December 23, 1899. The approximately 200,000 square feet of floor space also featured a colossal colonnade above the second story to be seen by riders on the El, the elevated railway used by shoppers to the area.

Inside the Hershey factory on Sixth Avenue via Bowery Boys History.

Soon after Hershey moved into the building, the company’s Sixth Avenue location was "whirring with the sound of boilers, mixers, candy presses, and wrapping machines, sending out five thousand boxes of chewing gum a day, and a lesser amount of other candy items,” notes Bowery Boys History. “Orders increased and production leapt to keep up with them,” writes the Hershey Community Archives. “More equipment was added and before long there were 24 wrapping machines. About a hundred people were working full time, ten-hour days and a half day on Saturday, a 54-hour week."

“Unfortunately, orders did not match production,” notes the Hershey Community Archives. Also, at this time, the federal government restricted raw material imports that were for the manufacturing of non-essential products. Because chewing gum was not regarded as essential, Hershey could not get sugar or chicle for his chewing gum. Thus, all production at the Sixth Avenue facility came to a halt in 1924.

Mr. and Mrs. Hershey via The Hershey Story.

By the 1930s and beyond, the property’s primary use included office and warehouse space. Hershey’s factory operation returned to central Pennsylvania, where it all began for founder and entrepreneur Milton Hershey, also dubbed the ‘Chocolate King’. Later, Hershey also became known for his philanthropic efforts through a non-profit foundation that helped provide aid to others. “We should deal with one another not as classes but as persons, as brothers,” Hershey once said. “The more closely we work together, the more effectively can we contribute to the better health of all mankind; this should be our common objective and its achievement would make the world a happier place in which to live.”

Header and Thumbnail Image Credit: Museum of the City of New York

Sep 8, 2020

Discover Flatiron: Role of 1930s New Deal Programs in Flatiron

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke the memorable words “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” during his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, he set out to inspire Americans to engage in work-related programs to ignite the economy out of Great Depression. This month, the Flatiron Partnership highlights some of the notable policies known as New Deal programs that were instituted by Roosevelt and Congress to offer relief, recovery, and reform to the Flatiron District and other communities across the nation.

With the Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, “the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established with approximately $5 billion in funding, providing public jobs for the unemployed–the largest jobs initiative in American history,” notes The Encyclopedia of New York City. This Executive Order-created agency was later renamed as the Works Projects Administration in 1939.

Other relief programs included the Public Works Administration (PWA), initiated in 1933, which “paid private contractors to build large-scale projects proposed by states,” the National Youth Administration (NYA) that began in 1935 as an agency that hired young men and women who were either in or out of school, and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration of 1933 (FERA), which awarded “grants to states for works programs to hire the unemployed and provide direct relief payments to the indigent."

Subway excavation workers by Andrew via NYC Department of Records and Information Services.

The railways were a major form of mass transit for New Yorkers and the system was a work in progress. To help subsidize and set in motion the public system’s future for generations to come, PWA funds were issued for the line’s construction. The proposed Independent Sixth Avenue subway line (IND) was viewed as the modern-day answer to the former elevated railway system. This new underground corridor, which featured six IND stations, including the 23rd Street subway stop in Flatiron, could transport a rider for a nickel under Sixth Avenue.

For a reported cost of nearly $60 million, the two-mile portion of the IND line made its debut on December 15, 1940. “Mayor Fiorello La Guardia had dedicated it to public use by cutting a red, white and blue ribbon stretched across a battery of turnstiles at the south end of the huge station at Thirty-Fourth Street,” noted The New York Times that day. Most importantly, the subway structure generated jobs for "657 additional operating employees, trainmen and station agents ...131 maintainers, trackmen, and special policemen," wrote The Times.

Admiral Farragut Monument at the north end of Madison Square Park via NYC Parks.

The mid-1930s also introduced the WPA-sponsored restoration efforts of national monuments. One Flatiron statue in need of repair was Madison Square Park’s Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. Located at the north end of the Park at 25th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, the 9-foot tall Farragut statue was granted a Park dedication in 1881 to honor the Rear Admiral’s defeat of Confederate forces at Alabama’s Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, where he reportedly proclaimed his immortal phrase: “Damn the torpedoes…full speed…ahead!” Several decades later, New Yorkers would pull together to restore the Farragut statue. With the readiness of the team underway, according to The New York Times on August 23, 1936, “expert carvers... will soon be at work on a pedestal for the famous Farragut statue".

Robust funding of the arts was also a signature of the New Deal. Harry Hopkins, who led New York City's WPA, declared in response to criticism of federal support for the arts, “[artists] have got to eat just like other people.” The Treasury Department chose to commission eight murals by architect Kindred McLeary to appear inside the Madison Square Post Office, located at 149-153 East 23rd Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues. This facility was reportedly the “most important postal station in New York City.” McLeary’s creative artistry featured City scenes ranging from Central Park to Wall Street to Greenwich Village.

Scenes of New York-Central Park by Kindred McLeary via Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Another local art commission included nearly 1,000 square feet of oil on canvas murals by artist and painter Erle (Earl) Lonsbury displayed at the 69th Regiment’s Lexington Avenue Armory headquarters, located between 25th and 26th Streets. Lonsbury’s Armory wall murals featured the Regiment's most noteworthy missions he Wheatfield at Gettysburg in 1863, the 1918 Battle of the Ourcq, and a New York welcome home parade from 1865. 

WPA and municipal funds were also used to pave the way for a street redesign that included the Fourth Avenue expansion, now known as Park Avenue South, between 14th and 23rd Streets. Reportedly, 2,500 WPA men removed 33 miles of trolley tracks throughout New York City.

The end result of New Deal programs and related infrastructure proved to be a success. By the mid-1940s, many programs ended operations due to various factors, including worker shortages created by World War II. President Roosevelt, a cousin of Flatiron native and former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, expressed great satisfaction with the achievements and accomplishments the policies provided to the populace and the architectural upgrades that reshaped structural designs.

During his third inaugural address on January 20, 1941, President Roosevelt declared that “most vital to our present and to our future is this experience of a democracy which successfully survived crisis at home; put away many evil things; built new structures on enduring lines; and, through it all, maintained the fact of its democracy.” 

Photo Credit: NYC Department of Records and Information Services

Aug 13, 2020

Discover Flatiron: The New York City Blackout of 1965

As part of our Discover Flatiron series spotlighting stories of New York resiliency, the Flatiron Partnership recalls the rush hour subway commute on the evening of November 9th, 1965 when a massive power failure brought the subway system to a halt. The halt sparked a spirit of unity among transit employees and subway passengers during an eventful moment that would become known as the New York City Blackout of 1965.

On the night of Wednesday, November 9th, 1965, at the height of the City’s rush hour, hundreds of passengers in subway cars were packed in place for their rapid dash to areas such as the Flatiron District and beyond. Above ground, the outdoor temperature registered in the mid-40s, the sky was clear, and a full moon was in effect. But at 5:28 pm, an unexpected electrical shutdown interrupted the commutes of New Yorkers across 630 subway trains and impacted 30 million residents in eight northeastern U.S. states, as well as the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in neighboring Canada. 

“The blackout was caused by the tripping of a 230-kilovolt transmission line near Ontario, Canada, at 5:16 pm, which caused several other heavily loaded lines also to fail,” notes the History Channel. “This precipitated a surge of power that overwhelmed the transmission lines in western New York, causing a ‘cascading’ tripping of additional lines, resulting in the eventual breakup of the entire Northeastern transmission network.”

However, in Time magazine’s November 19th, 1965 issue, the publication detailed that some New Yorkers claimed “they had seen a satellite pass over at the moment the lights failed, argued that the Russians had done it again. Many clung stubbornly to the belief that it was all a government-ordered test to see if Americans could stand up to an air raid.”

In reality, the power failure forced trains to sputter “to a halt in tunnels, on elevated tracks, and in stations…stranding about 800,000 rush hour riders–10,000 of whom were still stuck at midnight,” reported The New York Times on November 10th, 1965. “The Transit Authority and the Police Department worked into the early hours of the morning attempting to remove passengers from crowded, stalled trains.” 

The “evacuation of 800,000 people from the subway was laborious, and especially perilous was the rescue for subway riders stuck under or over the East River,” recalls the New-York Historical Society. “Police took five hours to assist passengers along catwalks on the Williamsburg Bridge, but other commuters chose to wait it out, rather than move on foot among mud and rats in the subway tunnels. Train commuters either slept in cars marooned in stations or simply stretched out on the floor of Grand Central station.”

(Photo Credit: Stranded Commuters in Grand Central by John Lent via ABC 7)

Around midnight, “food was sent to passengers who were still waiting to be escorted out along the narrow catwalks in dark tunnels and high above rivers and streets,” according to The New York Times. “People were wonderful,” The Times wrote in quoting a Transit attendant who assisted straphangers. “They even let the ladies out first.” The paper also reported that while passengers waited for assistance, many struck up conversations with each other. “Most of the irritation,” stated The Times, “was taken out on sarcasm.”

Hollywood was also ready to cash in on the chatter with a satirical take on the blackout in the 1968 theatrical release of Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? Starring Doris Day, Robert Morse, and legendary gossip columnist Earl Wilson playing himself. The 89-minute comedy featured fictional accounts of the night’s events. The film produced a box office profit of nearly $8 million, as well as an eponymous song sung by the American trio The Lettermen.  

(Photo Credit: MGM Studios)

In the aftermath of the New York City Blackout of 1965, “electric companies learned many important lessons, one of them being the importance of corrective measures to prevent such blackouts from happening again,” explains Baruch College. “The Northeast Reliability Council and New York Power Pool were two regulatory organizations that emerged after the blackout. Their role was to ensure that the quality of the equipment was kept up to standards across all power plants. As a result, they set the standards for the best possible operational guidelines in the industry.”

Within hours of the Wednesday night blackout, however, many of the areas that had been plunged into darkness were now returning to some level of light and normalcy. News outlets began to issue reports that power had been reinstated to a number of regions, including Canada by 8 pm, Upstate New York at 9 pm, and Massachusetts by 10 pm. New York City, however, took the longest to recover, with power starting up at approximately 3:30 am the next day.

In the days to follow, the Transit Authority expressed appreciation to commuters and its team through the Authority’s in-house publication The Subway Sun. The agency stated, in part, about that eventful evening, “Your Transit Authority wants to thank the many thousands of passengers who accepted with patience and understanding the inconveniences of the recent power blackout. We deeply appreciate both your fine conduct and the many hundreds of letters you have written to us to praise Transit employees. When the lights went out you were at your brightest.”

Header Photo Credit: Getty Images

Jul 22, 2020

Discover Flatiron: Silent Protest Parade of 1917 in Madison Square

Content Warning: This article mentions racial violence. 

In honor of its upcoming 103rd anniversary, the Flatiron Partnership looks back at the historic significance of the groundbreaking Fifth Avenue demonstration initiated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on 59th Street, and the procession’s hushed finish on 23rd Street in the Flatiron District. The “Silent Protest Parade” on July 28, 1917 was one of the first U.S. civil rights public marches led by African-Americans.

"On the afternoon of Saturday, July 28, 1917, nearly 10,000 African-Americans marched down Fifth Avenue, in silence, to protest racial violence and white supremacy in the United States," stated Chad Williams in an op-ed piece published in the Miami Herald. "New York City, and the nation, had never before witnessed such a remarkable scene."

Just a few weeks prior to the march, noted the Herald, “Simmering labor tensions between white and Black workers exploded on the evening of July 2, 1917” in East St. Louis, Illinois. For a full 24-hour period, white mobs committed hundreds of egregious acts of racially motivated violence against Black people, with a death toll that was officially 39, but may have run as high as 100 or more according to Smithsonian Magazine

The NAACP quickly responded to the massacre. According to the organization, they “soon issued a call for a Silent Protest Parade.” The NAACP, established in 1909, is self-described as the “nation’s foremost, largest, and most widely recognized civil rights organization." NAACP leaders James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B. DuBois soon formed a Silent Protest Parade Committee that also included other influential members of the African-American community.

(Photo Credit: Underwood and Underwood courtesy of James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts
and Letters, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

“We march because by the Grace of God and the force of truth, the dangerous, hampering walls of prejudice and inhuman injustices must fall,” noted the parade planners about their scheduled peaceful protest. “We march because we deem it a crime to be silent in the face of such barbaric acts. We march because we want our children to live in a better land and enjoy fairer conditions than have fallen to our lot. Be in line on Saturday and show that you have not become callous to the sorrows of your race.” 

Circulars defining the parade’s mission were distributed to the quiet onlookers who appeared along the parade’s route. For the parade’s participants, however, “it was not until they reached Twenty-third Street, where they dispersed, that they permitted themselves a few outbursts of cheers, these being occasioned by the waving of some of their more elaborately inscribed banners calling for justice and equal rights,” noted the Times on July 29, 1917. Police estimates, according to the newspaper, indicated that “although there were not more than 8,000 in the parade itself," over 20,000 members of the Black community lined Fifth Avenue and "gave silent approval of the demonstration.” The Silent Protest Parade that ended on 23rd Street in the Flatiron District would also become the blueprint for future marches throughout America during the decades to come, including the Black Lives Matter Marches of today.

The Silent Protest March “marked the beginning of a new epoch in the long Black freedom struggle,” noted the Miami Herald. “While adhering to a certain politics of respectability, a strategy employed by African-Americans that focused on countering racist stereotypes through dignified appearance and behavior, the protest, within its context, constituted a radical claiming of the public sphere and a powerful affirmation of Black humanity.”

Photo Credit: The Miami Herald 

Jun 23, 2020

Discover Flatiron: Ackerman Institute for the Family and The Audre Lorde Project

As we enter the last week of  Pride Month 2020, and in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership looks back at the early history of two notable neighborhood organizations that provide support to members of the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, as well as to the  Black LGBTQIA+ community specifically–the Ackerman Institute for the Family and Audre Lorde Project.

When the Ackerman Institute for the Family relocated from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to the Flatiron District in 2006, it pledged continued support in “developing clinical projects that focus on specific populations” at their state-of-the-art facility, according to their website Located at 936 Broadway, between 21st and 22nd Streets, one of the Institute’s current projects is the Gender & Family Project (GFP), which was initiated in 2010.

The Ackerman Institute is reportedly one of the best-known and highly-regarded non-profit training facilities for family therapists. Founded in 1960 by Dr. Nathan W. Ackerman, who had practiced traditional analysis, he later made an innovative clinical choice to switch to the practice of seeing patients and their family members together in a group session. This method was, in part, instrumental in the formation of Ackerman Institute projects such as GFP.

“GFP empowers youth, families and communities by providing gender affirmative services, training and research,” according to the Institute. The project “promotes gender inclusivity as a form of social justice in all the systems involved in the life of the family.” The Institute also “provides comprehensive multidisciplinary services for gender expansive children, transgender adolescents, their families and communities,” which includes “support groups for caregivers, grandparents, siblings and family members, family therapy and parental coaching, and affirmative psychological and gender evaluation.”

In acknowledgement of the Ackerman Institute’s outstanding supportive achievements, a Proclamation was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio to designate the date of April 16, 2018 as the Ackerman Institute’s Gender & Family Project Day in the City of New York. “The Ackerman Institute’s Gender & Family Project does incredible work to support transgender and gender expansive youth and promote family and community acceptance of all young people,” said NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray, who launched the NYC Unity Project in 2017, New York City’s first-ever, multi-agency strategy to deliver services that address the challenges of LGBTQ youth.

Now, more than ever, the Ackerman Institute stands committed “to ending violence against the trans community, outlawing conversion therapy, and call out the excessive policing and force against the LGBTQIA+ community. Committed to social justice, we stand in solidarity with the Black community at the Ackerman Institute and the world over. As family therapists, our ethics demand that we care about all people, all families, and act towards social justice. We must demand that Black lives matter and take action, especially those of us who sit with White privilege. We simply cannot be silent.” ⠀

And in 2010, the same year that the Ackerman Institute launched its Gender & Family Project, the Audre Lorde Project opened their Manhattan location at 147 West 24th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, near the Flatiron District. Lorde’s Project is best known as a community organizing center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming (LGBTSTGNC) People of Color in New York City.

Harlem, New York native Audre Lorde was a globally-acclaimed and self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Her writing dealt primarily with issues such as feminism, lesbianism, and black female identity. Lorde once said, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal, and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

The Audre Lorde Project was created two years after the writer’s death in 1992. The Lorde Project “was first brought together by Advocates for Gay Men of Color, a multi-racial network of gay men of color HIV policy advocates, in 1994. The vision for ALP grew out of the expressed need for innovative and unified community strategies to address the multiple issues impacting LGBTSTGNC People of Color communities.” ALP moved into its first location, the Fort Greene, Brooklyn parish house of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1996, followed by a second location on West 24th Street in Manhattan in 2010.

“While the Audre Lorde Project will keep its church-housed Fort Greene space as a satellite,” wrote Time Out New York on September 9, 2010, “it expects its newly visible, handicap-accessible, closer-to-more-subways home to significantly broaden its reach.” Some of the events held by the Lorde Project’s new 24th Street location included TransJustice Campaign meetings.

TransJustice is a political group created by and for Trans and Gender Non-conforming people of color. “TransJustice works to mobilize its communities and allies into action on the pressing political issues they face, including gaining access to jobs, housing, and education; the need for Trans-sensitive healthcare, HIV-related services, and job-training programs; and resisting police, government and anti-immigrant violence.” 

In November 2019, however, the Audre Lorde Project announced that the organization would now operate out of one office, their location in Brooklyn. During the months of December 2019 and January 2020, the Lorde Project organized a self-described “moving party” and provided food and MetroCards to all those who offered their support.

“Because we know our work to be far from finished,” wrote the organization, “we are making this move back to Fort Greene to save, fundraise, and intentionally plan for a future in a more permanent and accessible home. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.”

Photo Credit: NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project