Jersey Shore town’s first gay mayor resigns from arts group over eviction
NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP — This township's first openly gay mayor has resigned his position on a local arts board after a gay organization was told it would not be allowed to continue leasing space at the building the board manages.
QSpot LGBT Community Center is fighting its eviction from the Jersey Shore Arts Center at the former Neptune High School in Ocean Grove — a section that has carried its religious traditions from its founding as a camp meeting site, but also has become home to a large gay and lesbian population.
JSAC says the reason for not renewing the lease is because QSpot is not primarily focused on the arts. QSpot, however, has questioned the motivation behind the decision, which followed a June letter from JSAC demanding that QSpot remove a gay pride rainbow flag from above its basement door entrance.
Last week, Randy Bishop — a former Township Committee member and mayor — resigned from the JSAC board citing the organization's handling of the lease.
According to a news release from QSpot, Bishop said he was never informed of any board meeting in which QSpot's lease was discussed or voted on.
"Randy Bishop's resignation is another indication that there are unanswered questions surrounding the JSAC's decision not to renew QSpot's lease," QSpot Executive Director John Mikytuck said. "The fact that the only openly gay member of the JSAC Board of Directors had not been involved in the decision making process speaks volumes to our concerns about the JSAC's leaderships attitudes towards the LGBT community and their decision not to renew QSpot's lease."
Bishop served on the Township Committee from 2004 and served until this month, when he was appointed to a job at the Monmouth County Board of Elections. He's also a former president of the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce.
JSAC president Herbert Herbst told New Jersey 101.5 last week that QSpot's arrangement with JSAC was supposed to be temporary.
“It's not unusual for a landlord and a tenant to part company," he said last week. “We’ve been trying to part on very friendly terms.”
QSpot, however, says their volunteers spent countless hours renovating their space in the building after being assured last year that their lease would be renewed.
QSpot is the creator and producer of the state’s only LGBT film festival — QFest — and produces other arts programming.
QSpot is holding a public meeting 4 p.m. Saturday to discuss the issue.
The group already has at least one headliner raising attention for their cause. Comedian Julia Scotti, who has performed standup at QSpot many times, appeared on Steve Trevelise's New Jersey 101.5 show last week to speak up for the organization.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also on New Jersey 101.5: