A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 04, 2007
Peace Pentagon (339 Lafayette Street)

The “Peace Pentagon” at 339 Lafayette Street (Manhattan) is owned by the AJ Muste Memorial Institute. Many peace activist groups have had offices in the building.


AJ Muste Memorial Institute
The Muste Building

In 1978, with a dream of establishing a permanent home in New York for the nonviolence movement, the Muste Institute purchased a three-story loft building in downtown Manhattan from the War Resisters League and began managing it as part of our program work. By subsidizing the office rents for our movement tenants, and using income from several commercial storefronts to offset expenses, the Institute provides a way for activist groups to maintain low-cost offices in a convenient location, freeing up vital resources for their social justice work. As the real estate market in New York City tightens, 339 Lafayette Street — affectionately known as the “Peace Pentagon” — remains a sanctuary for the movement.

Help us fix our building.

Our Movement Tenants

Deep Dish TV (http://www.deepdishtv.org/), a Muste Building tenant since 1990, links independent videomakers and activists with local television access producers in a progressive national satellite network, educating and mobilizing the public through creative TV.

Libertarian Book Club, founded in 1945 to promote anarchist ideas and discussion of social issues, has been a Muste Institute tenant since 1987.

Metropolitan Council on Housing (http://www.metcouncil.net/), a Muste Building tenant since 2001, is a New York citywide membership organization fighting for the rights of tenants since 1952.

New York Transfer (http://www.blythe.org/), founded in 1985 and a Muste Building tenant since 1995, works to disseminate alternative news and information through the internet.

Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, formed in 1987 by several groups already based at the Muste Building, seeks to educate the public about US intervention and grassroots resistance in Latin America through its Weekly News Update on the Americas and Immigration News Briefs publications.

Paper Tiger TV (http://www.papertiger.org/), a volunteer video collective founded in 1981 to challenge and expose the corporate control of mainstream media, has been a Muste Institute tenant since 1986.

Socialist Party USA (http://sp-usa.org/), founded in 1901 and a Muste Institute tenant since 1998, carries out educational work and organizing geared toward building a radical democracy that places people’s lives under their own control.

War Resisters League (http://www.warresisters.org/), founded in 1923, seeks to end war and injustice through nonviolent education and action. The League bought the Muste Building in 1969 from the original owner and sold it to the Muste Institute in 1978.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Metro NY Chapter (http://www.wilpfnymetro.org/), founded in April 1915, works for world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice and an end to all forms of violence. WILPF’s NY Metro chapter has been a Muste Building tenant since 1990.

Lafayette Street: New York Songlines
War Resisters League
Corner: This building became known as the Peace Pentagon when the War Resisters League moved here in 1969 after their landlord at 6 Beekman Place asked them to leave in the aftermath of a police raid. Also houses groups like Nicaragua Network and Paper Tiger TV.

New York Times
Structural Flaws Found in a Building That’s Known as the Peace Pentagon
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
Published: September 4, 2007

In a second-floor office at 339 Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan, members of the War Resisters League sat around a table on a recent afternoon, working on a new design for the group’s Web site. In the office directly above, a man working for the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a tenants advocacy group, spoke to renters calling to ask about their rights.
(...)
For nearly 40 years, the building, a three-story brick structure at the corner of Bleecker Street, has provided low-priced offices and meeting spaces to a host of leftist groups and social justice organizations with slim budgets.

Now the tenants are facing an uncertain future. A few months ago, an inspection revealed that a central support column inside the building was sagging and that several lintels were deteriorating. Contractors estimated that it would take $1 million to make basic repairs and about double that amount to add improvements, like an elevator and new bathrooms.

Because of the political leanings of the groups that use it, 339 Lafayette is sometimes called the Peace Pentagon. The War Resisters League rented the building in 1968, bought it for $60,000 in 1974, then sold it four years later for $91,000 to the A. J. Muste Memorial Institute, a nonprofit group named after Abraham Johannes Muste, a pacifist and labor advocate born in 1885 who advised the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and opposed the Vietnam War.
(...)
There are nine more or less like-minded groups renting space from the institute, including the Libertarian Book Club, founded in 1945, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, started in 1915.

A common thread among those groups is dedication to the pacifist principles espoused by A. J. Muste. He was a minister ordained by the Dutch Reformed Church who embraced Marxism during the Depression, then renounced the ideology in 1936 after a meeting in Norway with Leon Trotsky. Mr. Muste died before the institute that bears his name was founded and never set foot inside 339 Lafayette Street.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBuildings/Housing/Parks • (0) Comments • Tuesday, September 04, 2007 • Permalink