New Yorkers celebrate Pride every June. From the extraordinary bravery of the young people in Stonewall, to the terrible years of the AIDS crisis when everyone in New York lost friends, neighbors, or family, to the founding of GMHC and ACT UP, New York has always been at the forefront of the movement too an all-too-slow embrace of the LGBTQ + community. I am proud that members of this community have always been leaders in the real estate world, not just as intermediaries but as pioneers.
Gay men and women, like artists (or the spaceship) Companies), Go boldly where others don’t. From Key West to Hell’s Kitchen, gay pioneers have been at the forefront of housing rehabilitation while simultaneously opening stores and encouraging service providers in formerly contaminated areas. While gentrification has a bad rap today, often with good reason, it has also been a major contributor to the rehabilitation of the dilapidated housing stock and the return of services to many cities and neighborhoods.
Despite these contributions, gay individuals and families often have housing problems. Even if DINKs (Dual Income No Kids) and GUPPIES (Gay Urban Professionals) presented sellers and landlords with an ideal economic picture, prejudices against members of the LGBTQ + community were widespread. In the early 1980s, when I first got into the real estate business, gay couples of any gender were simply considered “roommates” regardless of age. A gay couple looking to buy a cooperative apartment (and there were very few condos at the time) had to designate a member, usually the high-income earner, as the front person whose name would appear on the property contract and whose board motion would contain no mention of the partner . Of course, unmarried couples of the opposite sex often received the same treatment at the time. Just like women who tried to buy a cooperative on their own. Prejudice against all but the most heteronormative lifestyles was rampant in the world of cooperative licensing.
Over the decades, the co-op boards of directors began to fade. First it became more difficult to discriminate against women shopping alone (the frequent complaint of old white men on cooperative boards: “But you don’t know who to marry!”), Then when living together without the sanction of marriage began all ranks of New Yorkers To permeate life, unmarried couples of different sexes became more acceptable as co-buyers. Gay men were next, though even the most prominent figures in the fashion and art worlds endured at least ONE turndown in the fancier Upper East Side buildings before securing a home. Few buildings nowadays cling to prejudices about sexual orientation, which of course has been illegal in New York City since early 2003. However, it still happens occasionally. Not too many years ago, the board of directors of an Upper East Side cooperative turned down a gay couple, one of whom was running a large real estate fund. “Too complicated,” sniffed the elderly lady who ran the board.
In 2021, as bigotry and social conservatism again flood many parts of our country, and courts at every level attempt to uphold the rights of the biased, New York’s continued role as a pioneer in adoption will shine brighter. Nowhere else does the extraordinary contribution of the LGBTQ + community shine in all areas, from politics to professional sports, from finance to art. It is not for nothing that our city has the strictest housing regulations in the nation. The city’s greatest gratitude goes to our gay and transsexual neighbors, as well as all of our citizens, for creating the beautiful, diverse, challenging and uplifting metropolis in which we live.