Statements of Support

QSpot LGBT Community Center files Discrimination Lawsuit against Jersey Shore Arts Center to Halt Eviction

November 23, 2016 – Ocean Grove, NJ – QSpot LGBT Community Center filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Jersey Shore Arts Center (JSAC) in Superior Court of New Jersey today. The suit alleges that Herb Herbst, President of the JSAC, acted out of bias towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community when he chose not to renew QSpot’s lease expiring on December 31, 2016. According to the lawsuit, Herbst’s actions are a violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD), which protects tenants against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

QSpot is asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent QSpot from being removed from the premises pending further proceedings on its discrimination claim. The suit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation, as provided by the LAD. QSpot has asked that the court hear the matter on an expedited basis. QSpot is represented by Michael Long and Steven Rosato of the national law firm Lowenstein Sandler, LLP, with support from the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest.

“Over the past six months, QSpot has taken every reasonable step to encourage the Jersey Shore Arts Center to reconsider their decision not to renew our lease,” said John Mikytuck, QSpot Executive Director. “At each point along the way, Herb Herbst and JSAC’s leadership have absolutely refused to seriously discuss it. With no other options, and little more than a month before eviction, QSpot has been forced to file a lawsuit to protect our home and defend our right to be in it.”

In May, Herbst informed QSpot that their lease at the JSAC would not be renewed stating that “QSpot doesn’t provide arts and education programming.” According to the lawsuit, Herbst’s claim is merely a cover to conceal the real motivation for his decision, bias towards the LGBT community. Moreover, QSpot does, in fact, provide extensive arts and education programming including QFest, NJ’s only LGBT film festival which received a 2016 Monmouth Arts Council grant, live performances, open mic nights, movie nights, art exhibitions, film club, book club, marching band and other arts programming. QSpot is also an official field placement site for Monmouth University students completing year long academic internships for graduate and undergraduate degrees.

“The fact that Herb Herbst would prefer to fight a legal battle, rather than keep a great tenant that has paid rent every month, taken great care of and improved their unit, and provided vital services and arts and education programming to the local community, makes it pretty clear that LGBT bias is driving the JSAC’s decision,” said Mikytuck,“it makes no sense without it.”

QSpot has asked the court to consider several other factors when evaluating the matter. First, JSAC never required QSpot provide arts programming as a condition of tenancy over almost four years in the building. Second, other tenants at the JSAC whose primary businesses are not arts focused are not being evicted due to a lack of arts programming. And finally, that JSAC selectively enforced lease provisions and local regulations when demanding that QSpot remove a rainbow flag, a well-known symbol of the LGBT community,  hanging at their entrance for less than one week (as part of a memorial to the Orlando Pulse nightclub victims), while allowing other, more generic signs, to remain hanging on the building for extended periods of time without issue.

“As we have said all along, QSpot will use every available resource to protect our home and defend our right to be in it,” said Mikytuck. “It will be a terrible injustice to QSpot, the LGBT community and our allies if the JSAC is allowed to evict us on New Year’s Eve.”

“We are grateful that Michael Long and Steve Rosatto from Lowenstein Sandler, one of the most well-respected and experienced law firms in the country, are representing us,” said Mikytuck.

“Lowenstein Sandler is proud to stand with QSpot as it defends itself and the LGBT community it serves from unlawful discrimination,” added Michael Long, lead lawyer on the team.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL VERSION OF LAWSUIT

ABOUT QSPOT

Founded in 2005, QSpot LGBT Community Center fosters the health, well-being and pride of NJ’s LGBT community by providing resources, referrals, education, and outreach. QSpot is also home to the QFEST New Jersey LGBT Film and Digital Media Festival, NJ’s only LGBT film festival, which strives to support and promote LGBT film & digital media, the individuals who create it, and the people and stories they highlight. Additional QSpot arts programming includes the QSpot Marching Band, film club and Creative Expressions Group. QSpot works tirelessly to fulfill its mission while operating a safe and welcoming 2000 sq. ft. community center in Ocean Grove, NJ.

QSpot is the only LGBT community center serving the diverse cities of Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Red Bank, Long Branch, Toms River, Princeton, Trenton and others while operating as a 501(c) tax exempt nonprofit organization.

QSpot provides vital services to this under-served community including education, advocacy and support for LGBT youth, LGBT seniors, parents and families of LGBT, individual and group mental health counseling, internships, HIV support groups, transgender support group, 12-step recovery groups, job resource center, book club, women’s discussion group and more. QSpot is also a meeting place for other LGBT organizations and individuals looking for a welcoming place to hold important professional and personal events.

ABOUT LOWENSTEIN SANDLER AND THE LOWENSTEIN CENTER FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST

Lowenstein Sandler is a national law firm with more than 300 lawyers working from six offices in New York, Palo Alto, Roseland, Utah, and Washington D.C. The firm represents clients in virtually every sector of the global economy, with particular strength in the areas of technology, life sciences, and the financial management and fund formation industry sectors that fuel economic growth.

In 2009, Lowenstein expanded its historic commitment to pro bono work by creating the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest. The Center maximizes the impact of the firm’s pro bono work by focusing pro bono efforts and deepening the firm’s partnerships with leading nonprofit and community organizations. Led by a career public interest lawyer, Center staff work to foster and support pro bono efforts throughout the firm.

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QSPOT TOWN HALL STATEMENT

QSpot Facing Eviction

 – Delivered at QSpot Town Hall on September 24, 2016

Good afternoon everyone, thank you for being here. I know the news of QSpot facing eviction has been very upsetting. It seems unbelievable, after all we’ve fought for and won, that QSpot, an LGBT Community Center, could be facing eviction under highly questionable circumstances in 2016. The reality is, despite all we’ve accomplished, we still have a long way to go. So our fight continues. READ MORE

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STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT

THANK YOU!

These individuals and organizations have made statements of support for QSpot. If you’d like to add your name/organization to the list, please email info@jsqspot.org

Mark McSpirit
Board President
Pride Center of New Jersey

“If it wasn’t for the center, I wouldn’t be alive today.”  As the President of the Pride Center of New Jersey, I cannot say how many times I have heard this. The fact is, LGBT community centers save lives. Our Centers are a vital part of our community and provide a safe place were members of our communities can feel free to be who they are without fear.
I am proud to announce that earlier this year, The New Jersey Association of LGBT Community Centers was formed. This new group represents all four LGBT community centers in New Jersey.
The Pride Center of New Jersey
QSpot LBGT Community Center
Hudson Pride LGBT Community Center
Newark LGBTQ Community Center
This association is a statewide organization representing the best interests of all four LGBT community centers in NJ. We believe that together we are stronger and together we can fight injustices such as QSpot’s eviction notice.
The Pride Center of New Jersey stands behind John and QSpot. We will do anything that we can to support and fight against their eviction. We urge the Jersey Shore Arts Center to do the right thing and allow QSpot to stay and continue to serve the community.
Thank You!

Dev Gannon
Public Relations Chair
Gay Activist Alliance of Morris County (GAAMC)

Hayden Greyson
Social Justice Chair
Pride Center of New Jersey

Hi, my name is Hayden Greyson.  I am a member of the Pride Center of New Jersey’s social justice group.  I am here today on their behalf to stand in solidarity with the QSpot. The Jersey Shore Arts Center, according to their mission statement, is devoted to engaging community groups in the arts.

Queer folks need a safe space to experience the arts that is queer friendly:  in other spaces, we may face the perception or even the reality of being unwanted. Queer folks are artists, comedians, filmmakers, musicians and more.   We have a deep love of the arts that has often been hidden from history or pink-washed, because our very existence was unwanted.

Let us not have to hide yet again. It is 2016. Let the wonderful resource called the Q Spot, along with its community of queer artists, patrons of the arts and audience for the arts, flourish.  Thank you very much.

Hayden Greyson

John Figueroa
Garden State Equality

Mikell
JST-SURF Group

Hello my name is Mikell, i am the facilitator of the Jersey shore Transgender S.U.R.F. support group that utilizes the Q-spot facility to help educate and support 40 souls, they are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and co-workers of transgender individuals. We appreciate that we can do so in a safe and comfortable environment in a clean and well maintained setting. we
are but just one organization that use the facility for the purpose to educate and eradicate social stigmas of varied degrees within the community while also providing social support for the same. this is what we do. this is what we hope we will be able to continue to do. This is what the folks from Q-spot enable organizations like mine to do, but they do more, teaching those that lost they’re way from circumstances beyond they’re control find housing, helping them learn ways to help them find jobs, they organize functions and events and do so without prejudice. i do not personally know every nuance of they’re mission statement and all the things they are capable of just these things i have witnessed, they do it from the heart. they treat folks as they should be treated as fellow human beings. healing broken souls, helping them learn to help themselves one person at a time all while being themselves.
Although i have not personally done so my members have had the pleasure to attend the movie nights and film festivals the facility provides access for. they also have comedy events and appearances from other notable personalities. all in a accepting comfortable venue. Anytime i have been to the q-spot club it has been clean and well kept and well cared for and i have never seen any damage or destruction of property, i have never witnessed any unlawful activity at or around the premises so it seems that they are in compliance of all local, federal
and state statutes. It can only be assumed that a tenant in good standing who has insurance, maintains and keeps up the environment according to the lease, complies with the law, is in good standing paying rent, provides entertainment and has education and support networks in place just as other tenants are required may be being singled out and selectively told that the lease will not be
extended by the landlord simply by virtue of who they are, LGBTQ.
I would vehemently urge you too do the right thing, do the human thing and let this organization continue to do the civil and necessary tasks they are more than capable of doing. to not allow them to do so would be a sin. Please allow them to continue they’re righteous mission of moral and ethical principles
and practices. it is a difficult but necessary purpose. With all my time in living life one thing will stand true and may be hard to believe, if you think
you do not know anyone who or have a family member who is LGBTQ it is because they are ashamed to tell you…..and when or if they do you will be looking for a facility like this for education, help and support. you will not care about movies, comedy, film festivals or the like.
regards
Mikell Be
JST-SURF

Ganine Gambale
Board Member
Pride Center of Staten Island

Barbra Casbar Siperstein
Gender Rights Advocacy Association of NJ

Tom Little
Deputy Chief of Staff Asw Downey and Asm Houghtaling

Carol Watchler
Chair
GLSEN Central New Jersey

“GLSEN Central New Jersey is grateful for the space at QSpot in the Jersey Shore Arts Center.  We have been very happy to host our Student Honor Award presentations, a film showing, and other important meetings at this welcoming space.  We are most hopeful that the question of a continuing lease is resolved because we foresee additional educational events in the future benefiting our members and the young persons they serve being held at this QSpot location.”

Sue Fulton
Candidate
Monmouth Freeholder

Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster
Board Chairs
Ocean Grove United

Many allies of the LGBT community may not be here today but are very supportive of QSpot.  There was a very diverse presence at the QSpot Memorial for the Orlando victims. It is becoming apparent that some of the terrorist attacks are directed specifically at the LGBT Community. Orlando was one and there is evidence that the Chelsea neighborhood was targeted by the recent NYC bomber because it is a gay neighborhood. It is more critical than ever that the entire community stand by their LGBT neighbors to show their support. Evicting QSpot from the Arts Center is exactly the wrong message to send. 

Carol Rizzo
Neptune Committeewoman

I am here today with a heavy heart. After all the progress we have seen in this state on marriage equality and civil rights, I would not have believed that I would be standing here today in support of one of the most enriching arts programs and community centers in NJ;  Qspot. All they want is to renew their lease here at the Jersey Shore Arts Center.

In just 4 years, Qspot has developed a rich history of presenting performances by musicians, comedians and spoken word performers; it sponsors the annual NJ Gay film festival and provides educational opportunities and training for some of our communities most at risk youth. 

One would think that the Jersey Shore Art Center would be proud to have QSPOT as a resident. After all, the mission of the Jersey Shore Arts Center is… And I quote from their mission statement which you can find on their web site.

“The Mission of the Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society, Inc. is twofold: to save and restore the beautiful and historic building (the “old” Neptune High School) that is currently home to the Jersey Shore Arts Center, and to operate the Arts Center in support of local artists and arts educators. The Jersey Shore Arts Center provides professional opportunities and work space for artists, educators and community groups who in turn develop opportunities for the broader Jersey Shore community to experience and engage with the Arts.”

I am calling on Mr. Herbst and the board of the Jersey Shore Arts Center to reconsider their decision;  to recognize that Qspot  is completely in keeping with the Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society’s stated mission, and that the Jersey Shore Community is enriched by the presence of Qspot. I respectfully ask that the Jersey Shore Arts Center renew the Qspot lease.

– Carol

Lillian G. Burry
Freeholder
Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders

…I am fully supportive of the efforts set forth at the QSpot. It is truly an asset to both the community and the arts community.

June Colaicovo
Former QSpot Board Vice Chair

Chris Generoso
Former QSpot Board Treasurer

“I’m standing here today as a former board member and still volunteer and supporter of this wonderful center. I wanted to tell you of the toil and sweat put into making this space our home (broken fingernails and all) but I was stopped in the other room and asked where all the youth are. Here then, is my answer to that.  They are out doing what all youth do, partying and enjoying their freedoms which were won on the backs of our predecessors, who put their selves on the line to gain those freedoms.  As they grow older and the party/bar scene gets old also, they will be looking for those programs we are now putting into place and a place to attend those programs, etc. That then is our legacy to them, to have a safe place to join with people of like minds and hopefully become a more active member of the community center. Thats all we can hope for. Those comng out, regardless of their age need a place to experience that safety, answer questions and help in any way we can.  We have been diligent in following the guidelines presented to us under our current lease, paid our rent on time and even promoted the arts (Qfest, showcasing local artists, etc). The reasons cited for the eviction from our center are not true and we need to do all we can to stand firm and hold JSAC’s feet to the fire. I am behind John and the board 100% and will do whatever I can to support our fight to Keep the center.  John, I have your back. Lets show them that we are together in this.  Thank you for listening.”

Robyn Gigl
Board Member
Garden State Equality

MaryAnn Vitiello
QSpot Co-Founder

Lauren Albrecht
Chair
Monmouth LGBTQ Democratic Caucus

Pamela Renee
Councilwoman
Neptune City