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Unanimous City Council Vote Makes Stonewall Inn an Official City Landmark

By Danielle Tcholakian | October 1, 2015 7:01pm | Updated on October 2, 2015 6:20pm
 Two women kiss in front of The Stonewall Inn, which was unanimously voted a landmark by the City Council.
Two women kiss in front of The Stonewall Inn, which was unanimously voted a landmark by the City Council.
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DNAinfo/Sybile Penhirin

WEST VILLAGE — The Stonewall Inn is the city's first landmark protected for its importance to gay and lesbian history, thanks to a unanimous vote by the City Council on Thursday.

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the bar a landmark back in June, but the council's vote makes the designation official.

Councilman Corey Johnson, who is gay and whose district the bar lines in, said the vote had particular importance for him personally.

“When I first visited New York City, the first place I wanted to go was the Stonewall Inn," he said. "I stood outside and felt a deep connection to this place that I had read and heard so much about. To now be the council member representing the West Village and to have a chance to vote on its landmark designation is incredibly meaningful and special."

The LPC's decision was unusual, as the agency typically only considered the architectural value of a site, not the building's cultural significance. One of the commissioners at the time noted that Stonewall "ain't a pretty piece of architecture," but said it was worthy of protection as a symbol of "strength and dignity" for the LGBT community.

The Christopher Street bar was the site in 1969 of what is referred to now as the Stonewall Rebellion, when gay bar patrons fought back against corrupt and abusive police officers.

Stonewall's reputation as a flashpoint in gay history and the gay civil rights movement continues to draw people to it as a gathering place to celebrate victories, like this summer's Supreme Court decision making marriage legal for gay Americans throughout the 50 states, and mourn losses, like when a young gay man was shot in the head in what police said was a hate crime in 2013.

The landmark designation is largely symbolic. While landmarking does confer protections on a site, Stonewall is already in a historic district, which means any attempt to change the building would have gone before the LPC anyway.

A push to make the bar and the small park in front of it a national monument by adding it the National Park Service is also picking up steam as of Sept. 20.

After months of behind-the-scenes work to shore up the support of the local community board and elected officials, Rep. Jerry Nadler officially launched his campaign to urge President Barack Obama to declare the bar a monument.