Stonewall at Ingersoll: Black Community Feels LGBT Community is Insensitive

Rendering of Stonewall, an LGBTQ-welcoming affordable housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. COURTESY OF BFC
Rendering of Stonewall, an LGBTQ-welcoming affordable housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. COURTESY OF BFC

By Stephen Witt
Kings County Politics

Stonewall House, named for the 1969 Stonewall Inn Uprising in 1969 which many consider the kickoff to the modern American gay civil rights movement, is at 112 St. Edwards Street, just north of Myrtle Avenue and Fort Greene Park in the heart of NYCHA’s Historically Black Ingersoll Houses.

The 17-story building is both the state’s first LGBT-friendly affordable elder housing complex and the first Brooklyn NextGen project, which sees that NYCHA property is sold off for development rights with any profits earmarked for NYCHA upkeep, improvements and affordable housing.

While it is illegal to market exclusively to the LGBT community, a strong outreach was made to the LGBT community from SAGE, a Manhattan-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT elder people who partnered with BFC Partners to develop the site, and who are charged with running the 7,000-square-foot SAGE Community Center in the complex.
Currently, 54 of the 145 studio and one-bedroom apartments at Stonewall House in Fort Greene are set aside for existing NYCHA residents. All of the units are reserved for residents 62 years or older who make $37,350 or less for a single person and $42,700 or less for a family of two. One-quarter of the apartments are designated for those who have been homeless.

Adams, a retired NYPD Captain, in what the New York Post characterized as a “bizarre rant,” was quoted as saying, “Because if you have a body of people over there that feels as though this place here is not for them — we’re going to have incidents in this community that will be disruptive. And I don’t want that to happen. I didn’t put on a vest for 22 years to protect the children and families of this city to watch us be divided.”

But last week, Adams was a bit more conciliatory, saying while he recognizes the dire affordable housing need for all communities, LGBTQ+ included, these developments must also be truly reflective of the diversity of the surrounding neighborhood, especially on city-owned land.

“As I walked into the Stonewall House ribbon-cutting, several community residents voiced their concerns to me over a nice building built on NYCHA property while their public housing remains neglected. They also shared the desire to see a greater share of LGBTQ+ people of color. The number one crisis in the community where Stonewall House sits is affordable housing and gentrification. I want all of our friends and allies to hear this and be part of the solution. We worked together on marriage equality, on raising the age for RHY [Runaway & Homeless Youth] youth. We must do so on this, too,” he said.

Adams is not the only elected official or longtime community member to express some reservations on the Stonewall House, starting with the name of the complex.

Several people approached KCP before the Post reported the Adams story, expressing how they felt the project has an air of LGBT gentrification, starting with the naming of the complex for the Stonewall Uprising. That SAGE and BFC Developers, who partnered on the project, offered little in consideration for the struggles that Blacks in Ingersoll Houses have endured or the seminal importance that Blacks have had in the American Civil Rights Movement, according to several community sources.

These sources feel other names should have been considered for the complex such as naming it for Richard Wright, a Harlem Renaissance writer and author of “Native Son,” who lived in Fort Greene. It is like this community has co-opted the American Black Civil Rights Movement and the ribbon-cutting featured the rainbow colors of the LGBT community with no black, green and red colors representing the Black Diaspora, said one source.

Don Capoccia, principal of BFC Partners, and Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, responded that, “Stonewall House is named after the Stonewall Uprising, a seminal moment 50 years ago that was led by a diverse group of individuals, including people of color and transgender and gender nonconforming people. The vast majority of Stonewall House residents are people of color and many are members of the LGBTQ community and allies. The name honors the building’s residents.”

Jared Aradar, president of the Lambda Independent Democrats (LID) of Brooklyn, the political voice of Brooklyn’s LGBTQ community, said the organization had little involvement in the project.

“LID is a political, not policy, organization. If any of the elected officials and leaders were upset, I really wished they had reached out to me. I do have concerns about how our allies and we are working together. I want to make sure everybody is getting along. We all have to work and live together,” said Aradar.

City Council member Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) said she will reserve comments until after she meets with SAGE and BFC Partners to discuss some of the issues and feelings from within the community.

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