WEST VILLAGE — The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and ... Christopher Street?
LGBT New Yorkers and Greenwich Village residents are asking the National Park Service to consider designating Christopher Park, in front of the Stonewall Inn, an American monument — making it the nation’s first site recognized for its historic importance to the gay rights movement.
“So many of us have organized our lives around Stonewall,” Sen. Brad Hoylman, one of New York’s openly gay state legislators, said at Thursday's meeting of Community Board 2, which issued a resolution supporting the proposal.
Hoylman recalled “highs and lows,” from gathering to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, to coming together to mourn the shocking death of Mark Carson, a young gay man shot to death in 2013 on Eighth Street in an apparent hate crime.
Community Board 2, representing a district that includes the Stonewall Inn and Christopher Park, issued a resolution inviting the National Park Service and “all stakeholders” to begin the process of considering the designation, and noting that the Park Service “is charged with preserving and interpreting American history for future generations.”
The events outside Stonewall in 1969 “have come to symbolize the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement,” it continued.
The resolution pushes the plan forward because the Park Service needs a showing of community support to begin to consider the site. The actual designation process will be long and complicated, and involve extensive public review.
Monuments can be designated by congressional legislation or a proclamation from the president. While supporters of the designation doubted their ability to persuade Congress, they felt they had a chance with President Barack Obama — who, CB 2 noted, “talked about Stonewall in his second inaugural address, citing it as a definitive moment in U.S. civil rights history.”
The president can only designate land that is federally owned, so the city would have to first gift the park and the area around it to the federal government.
That land transfer would, the community board said, involve comprehensive public input through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process, on top of the “extensive public-engagement process” the Parks Service does before any designation.
The proposed national park would not include the actual bar, only its façade, which has remained largely unchanged since 1969.
Jim Fouratt, a self-described gay New Yorker who has talked about his experience at the uprising in 1969, spoke specifically in favor of that distinction, saying the bar itself remains, to him, a symbol of police corruption and his community’s oppression.
“I am not a fan of the Stonewall Inn being designated the birthplace of our movement,” Fouratt said. “What I am in favor of is [designating] the street in front of it, where people… where we found our courage.”
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly reported that the CB 2 resolution was written by board member Doris Diether. It was in fact written by Rich Caccaopolo, chair of the board's Parks and Waterfront Committee.