14 Gay Street Reveals History


Text and photos by Brian J Pape, AIA

Community protests erupted in late 2022 when news that the City Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) had allowed the developer to do illegal construction at 14 Gay Street that had endangered it and neighboring buildings. In Spring of 2022, Nos. 14, 16 and 18 Gay St. and the adjacent Nos. 16, 18 and 20 Christopher St. were purchased for $12 million by Lionel Nazarian.  And before that, for seven months in late 2019, New York City took possession of these properties when their longtime owner Celeste Martin died without a will in December 2018. Tragically, the City and DOB had not done needed repairs to the building when it was under their jurisdiction.

Now that demolition is complete, clues about its history are revealed to the street.

THE DEMOLITION OF 14 GAY STREET, center, has endangered 12 Gay Street, left, and 16 Gay Street, right, both 200-year-old residences


THIS VIEW OF 12 GAY STREET, left, and 14 Gay Street, center excavation, look southwest from Gay Street.


In the photo above, 16 Gay Street was originally erected in 1828, a two and one-half story and cellar house, with a brick front, like its neighbors at 12 and 14 Gay Street. As evidenced by the change in wood weatherboard siding and the coursing of the brick, the upper story and the modillioned roof cornice were added later. Note the lack of fireplaces on this wall. Furthermore, the builder would not have used expensive clapboards if the house had not had an exposed south wall, before their neighbor’s built.

The Federal-style houses at 12 and 14 Gay Street were also erected in 1828 by others, after 16 Gay Street was erected. By building these two together, the fireplaces for both residences were integrated into the party wall, on each floor, thus saving valuable space for both homes. The developer is reinforcing the foundations on both side of 14 Gay Street and promised to rebuild the façade with the old bricks to match the appearance of the previous façade.