LGBTQ-Friendly Neighborhoods of New York City

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June 19, 2018

Before the Stonewall riots in the summer of 1969, Greenwich Village had already long been the original “Gayborhood.” The uprising, largely led by transgender women, put the Village, and New York City, on the map as a gay mecca, and spurred the creation of LGBT rights groups nationwide.

A year after Stonewall, New York City hosted its first Pride Parade. Next year, the city will celebrate its 50th Pride.

Localize.city,  a website that uses artificial intelligence to provide buyers and renters with critical details for every home, compiled a list of New York’s LGBTQ-friendliest neighborhoods five decades after Stonewall. The list shows that gayborhoods have evolved from places anchored by services, bars, and large queer communities — like the Village and Chelsea — to smaller, more diffuse enclaves throughout the boroughs. Although these services and bars are less concentrated, the existence of newer gayborhoods demonstrate the continued need for LGBTQ safe havens, sites for organizing and resisting the status quo, and places to socialize and love freely are still needed.

“The landscape of these LGBTQ-affirming enclaves has changed,” said Localize.city urban planner Beth Kancilia. “In New York City, Queer-friendly spaces are less stagnant and more transient, rather than rooted in one place. The Village, because of the pricey real estate there, is no longer leading a counter cultural movement, and in some ways is not hospitable to the city’s diverse LGBTQ communities. Other neighborhoods across the boroughs now have their own hubs.

“Especially when tracking nightlife across the city, the movement is perhaps reflective of a younger queer population and the bohemian party scene that has long left the Village,” Kancilia added. “Transient parties or monthly celebrations often replace designated gay bars, which are a declining form of nightlife throughout the nation.”

New York is trying to confront some the economic challenges for LGBTQ youth and seniors. LGBT-friendly low-income senior housing is under construction in Crotona and at Fort Greene’s Ingersoll Houses. The city has seen a shelter open for LGBTQ homeless youth at the Bea Arthur Residence in the East Village and supportive housing in Harlem and Fordham.

In many neighborhoods, New York City’s openly gay and lesbian elected officials not only represent their communities, but have been a driving force in making their communities more welcoming to LGBTQ individuals. (There are currently five members of City Council’s LGBT Caucus, four openly gay or lesbian state legislators, and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is openly bisexual.)

Manhattan

Chelsea/Hell’s Kitchen

Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen have the greatest concentration of LGBTQ services and resources, health organizations, bars and clubs in New York City, and perhaps the world. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce data also shows that the largest cluster of LGBT-owned businesses in the city are there.

Chelsea is home to prominent national LGBTQ organizations, like the media watchdog, GLAAD; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); and a Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) office. Local entities are based there, too, like Oasis Latino LGBT Wellness Center, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Translatina Network, and the Manhattan branch of the activist organization, the Audre Lorde Project.

Further north, Hell’s Kitchen offers a plethora of nightlife, particularly gay bars clustered along Ninth Avenue. You can find bartenders in their skivvies at Boxers Sports Bar, maybe spot a cowboy two-steppin’ on the bar at Flaming Saddles Saloon, or grab a casual dinner and a (drag) show at Therapy. Additionally, Vogue Knights has long hosted its roving ballroom/voguing/Kiki (a dance subculture rooted in voguing) events in the neighborhood, most recently at Basera — an Indian restaurant that also offers event space.

“With such a concentration of services, institutions and welcoming businesses, it’s no surprise census data shows that Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen have the highest rates of same-sex couples in the city,” Kancilia said. “Nearly 10 percent of all couples in these neighborhoods have identified as same-sex.”

Greenwich Village

What would a list of LGBTQ New York City neighborhoods be without the Village? It has become a brand-name global queer capital, home to perhaps the most significant site of the modern LGBTQ movement: the Stonewall Inn. From Lorraine Hansberry and Edie Windsor, to Anderson Cooper and Rosie O’Donnell, many in the LGBTQ community have called Greenwich Village home. Out LGBT officials hold office on both city and state levels — Corey Johnson in the City Council, Deborah Glick in the State Assembly, and Brad Hoylman in the State Senate.

“It is still one of the largest centers of LGBTQ bars, organizations, historic sites and monuments, like the Stonewall National Monument and the Gay Liberation sculpture, and remains the indisputably appropriate location for the NYC Pride March to culminate,” Kancilia said. “But today, famed haunts like Stonewall, Henrietta Hudson’s and Julius’ are as much tourist attractions and sites where LGBTQ visitors pay homage, as they are neighborhood bars.”

The neighborhood has become not only touristy, but extremely pricey, and in turn, less diverse.

“Village real estate regularly tops the lists as some of the nation’s most expensive. Replacing those on the fringes, drag queens and activists are some of the city’s wealthiest residents — those who can afford the $1.5 million median home price or $3,500 median rent,” Kancilia noted. “The resulting cultural shift has tidied the once-wild enclave, making it less of a hub for younger queer folk to mingle.”

Brooklyn

Park Slope/Windsor Terrace

Park Slope has been a lesbian haven at least as far back as 1983, when The Advocate ran a piece entitled “Charting the Lesbian Life in Park Slope.” The LGBT Historic Sites Project highlights that Park Slope was home to TransyHouse from 1995 to 2008 — the former residence of trans activist Sylvia Rivera, which housed transgender and gender non-conforming people in need.

Today, Park Slope is still considered a major LGBTQ hub, as the site of Brooklyn’s family-friendly annual Pride Festival and Night Parade and the home of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the world’s largest collection of materials about lesbians. It’s known for haunts like Ginger’s, one of the oldest and one of the last lesbian bars in the city, and the woman/trans-only BDSM party, Submit. Businesses like OUTmedia, a queer arts and activism organization, are based here.

“The neighborhood has a reputation for being a great place to settle down and have a family, for both queer and straight couples,” Kancilia said. “This is reflected in census data that shows Park Slope as having some of the most same-sex couples, particularly female partners, citywide. But as prices have skyrocketed in recent years, and a number of lesbian and queer businesses have shuttered, areas further south, like Windsor Terrace are welcoming priced-out lesbians and queers.”

The high real estate prices are particularly straining for women-only households, taking into account the pay gap between men and women, which is then multiplied in lesbian households. This can be further exacerbated for trans populations, which face much higher rates of poverty in general.

Windsor Terrace, a cheaper alternative that’s still close to Park Slope amenities, has the third highest rate of female same-sex households in the city, while the area just south of Prospect Park, has the second highest.

East Williamsburg/Bushwick

If it’s a raucous party you’re looking for, East Williamsburg and Bushwick have a lively queer bar and nightlife scene. Music venues and bars like Bushwick’s Lot 45, and East Williamsburg’s Sunnyvale and Elsewhere have hosted the rotating Papi Juice, a collective, dance party and Kiki event that celebrates queer and trans people of color, and Lot 45 has recently been the venue for the LGBTQ dance party, Hot Rabbit Bad Habit. In Bushwick, Happyfun Hideaway is a divey staple, while newcomer Mood Ring has a queerish vibe.

At Bizarre Bushwick, you can wrap up your dinner with a particularly, well, bizarre, burlesque or drag show. Their “Legendary” shows pay homage to “the queers that paved the way.” And every Thursday Bizarre hosts a workshop about queer bodies and performance art.

“Perhaps the most well-known venue in the area is Bushwick’s House of Yes, which makes a big deal out of Pride month,” Kancilia noted. “They host late night pride festivities throughout the week, with themes like Rainbow Disco, House of Vogue, and the Wizard of Oz-themed Glitteratti.

“But then again,” she added, “House of Yes, is always throwing gender-bending, burlesque and acrobat-performance parties, with regular queer nights and prominently post club policies online about seeking consent and fostering trans and queer-inclusive spaces.”

Bedford-Stuyvesant

Last year, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center moved into its new location at Restoration Plaza on Fulton Street, offering support groups, free HIV testing and more. Woodhull Hospital opened a Pride Health Center, also in 2017, dedicated to treating the LGBTQ community.

The diversity of Bed-Stuy’s LGBTQ community is reflected by the diversity of its LGBT offerings and also reflects larger changes in Brooklyn.

The arts space, Secret Project Robot, moved to Bed-Stuy last year (despite some pushback from bar-weary neighbors) after being priced out of Bushwick, where it had moved when it lost its Williamsburg space. It’s home to many LGBTQ events, like Papi Juice, the Latin queer party Tortura and the Asian queer party Bubble T.

The all-inclusive vibe of Romy & Michele’s Saturday Afternoon Tea Dance at C’mon has made it a favorite daytime dance spot for the LGBTQ scene. The Langston Night Club, is a popular spot on the border of Crown Heights for the West Indian/Caribbean LGBT community. Just over the border with Clinton Hill is the Willie Mae Rock Camp, which provides bands and projects led by female/trans/gender-queer musicians with subsidized monthly practice space. The Potters House Church of the Living God is a gay-friendly house of worship, welcoming those who may not feel welcome in some local churches. The Bed-Stuy-based Circle of Voices is an arts nonprofit that organizes performances and music festivals celebrating women of African descent and women of color.

Bronx

Melrose/Mott Haven

The borough kicked off its recent Pride Festival at 149th Street and Third Avenue, on the border of these two South Bronx neighborhoods that are seeing an uptick of LGBTQ-friendly events and services. The festival was organized by the Third Avenue Business Improvement District, which held a fundraiser for it — called the “Big Gay Bronx Brunch” — at Charlie’s Bar & Kitchen in Mott Haven’s hip, historic clock tower building. The resources for the area’s LGBT community, however, are not just focused on the artsy newcomers.

The five-year-old nonprofit Destination Tomorrow has an array of services including, from an LGBT Youth Drop-in Center to free coding programs (called Haus of Code) for LGBT+ youth of color. It also has support groups like “Bois do cry” for trans men and trans masculine individuals, as well as a weekly Kiki event.  Its space on Third Avenue also hosts the Bronx Trans Collective. It launched in 2016 as the first transgender-specific center in the borough, bringing together health, counseling, legal and other services that had been spread out previously.

“While the Bronx is the only borough that does not have an LGBT center, change is on the horizon,” Kancilia noted.

Earlier this year Destination Tomorrow announced plans to build an LGBT center in Melrose to further provide safe spaces for the Bronx LGBT community and work to end homophobia and transphobia. City Councilman Ritchie Torres, the borough’s first openly gay elected official, led the push for the project.

Melrose also has an LGBTQ health clinic operated by the renowned Chelsea-based Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. The center opened the Bronx outpost, noting that it had more than 1,000 clients coming from the Bronx to its Manhattan location and recognized that that the LGBT community needed a closer option.

Fordham

This western Bronx neighborhood is home to one of the city’s leading grassroots organizations for LGBTQ youth of color as well as the borough’s first LGBTQ senior center.

The youth membership group FIERCE — Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment — was founded in 2000 in response to increased policing and arrests of youth of color on the Christopher Street Pier in the West Village and is still working to get a 24-hour LGBTQ youth drop-in center near the pier. The Fordham-based group also host events in its Morris Avenue space, like social justice-minded open mic nights, Vogue Kiki dance practice, queer yoga and safe sex/sex workers safety discussions — a reality that the organization is confronting head on for low-income LGBTQ youth who may be forced out of their homes by their families. The neighborhood also has the second outpost of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” supportive housing for LGBT youth.

Meanwhile, there’s tai chi, stretching and meditative art classes at the borough’s first full-time senior center, at 260 East 188th St. operated by SAGE. Torres, who represents the area, helped get the funding for the three-year-old center.

Torres is working to bring more LGBT resources to the community. Last year, he secured $20 million to help transform a long-defunct Fordham Library into a new community hub, including home to an LGBTQ center. So, the Bronx may soon have two LGBTQ centers.

Queens

Jackson Heights

A stretch of Roosevelt Avenue — with its strip of Latinx-centric LGBTQ bars and clubs like Hombres Lounge, Club Evolution, True Colors and Friend’s Tavern — is Jackson Heights version of Christopher Street.

Beyond this cluster of nightlife options, the neighborhood is home to the Queens Pride House, the Queens Center for Gay Seniors and the Dari Project, a grassroots group aimed at increasing acceptance of LGBTQ people of Korean descent in Korean American communities.

Jackson Heights is also home to the annual Queens Pride Parade (which last year had its first transgender grand marshal). Daniel Dromm, the area’s openly gay City Councilman, co-founded the parade nearly 30 years ago — initially held at a neighborhood gay bar. It was spurred by the 1990 death of Julio Rivera, a gay Latino man brutally attacked in a school yard. There’s now a street sign at the corner of 37th Avenue and 78th Street commemorating Rivera.

“Despite having the second largest pride parade in the city, LGBTQ community groups are still working hard to fight homophobic and transphobic violence in the area,” Kancilia said. “Following two recent attacks on gay and trans individuals, one that reportedly occurred hours after this year’s pride parade and another just four days later, local groups quickly mobilized to hold a rally to voice concerns and promote tolerance.”

Long Island City

This fast-growing neighborhood is home to the borough’s highest percentage of same-sex couples — about 2.3 percent of all couples there. As more people are moving into the area, which is represented by openly gay City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, more LGBTQ services are popping up. The Queens LGBT Community Center opened earlier this year on Northern Boulevard and promises to become a hub for community organizing. It is working with local schools on creating safer environments for LGBT students and helping develop their gay-straight alliances. It offers HIV testing, a safe space for seniors in the LGBT community and more.

The artsy neighborhood’s Plaxall gallery recently hosted one of Pride Week’s big kickoff events, a retro-themed dance party called “1983.” But while Long Island City doesn’t have a high concentration of LGBTQ bars, it’s a quick commute to Astoria. That neighborhood, home to many Broadway actors priced out of Manhattan, also has a fairly sizeable LGBTQ population. LGBTQ clubs Icon and Albatross are known for their weekly drag shows, karaoke nights and inclusive atmospheres.

Staten Island

St. George

Few may think of Staten Island as an LGBTQ hub, but the borough too has an annual PrideFest — that lasted nine days (albeit in May instead of June). Events included an LGBTQ youth prom and a transgender open mic.

The Pride Center of Staten Island, located on Victory Boulevard in St. George, has a lending library of over 5,600 LGBTQ books, offers workshops on anti-bullying issues, counseling services, support groups and more. It’s home to a SAGE-Pride center for seniors and a youth drop-in center with weekly programs like Grrrl Power, an empowerment group for LGBTQ young women (born and/or identified), gender non-conforming individuals, and allies between the ages of 13-24. Not far from St. George is the home of pioneering photographer Alice Austen — an icon in the LGBTQ community for her early work of women embracing and dressed in male drag. She grew up there and later lived there with her long-time partner from 1917 to 1945.

The borough also has an openly gay State Assemblyman, Matthew Titone, who has represented the North Shore for more than a decade.

Methodology

To create this list, Localize.city studied several data sets. Localize.city’s data science team developed an algorithm to identify the plethora of LGBTQ bars and venues, community organizations, social services, religious and youth groups. The analysis also looked at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s public list of LGBT-owned businesses, identified out LGBTQ elected officials currently in office and referenced the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project for further context.

While census data on same-sex couples was used, Localize.city recognizes the gaps in this data set. The quality of the data relies on self-reporting, for which there are many barriers, even today. In addition,the data only reflects a very small segment of the queer population — male- or female- identified people, in unmarried relationships with someone of the same sex.

 

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