BY ANDY HUMM | Christopher Park across from the just-landmarked sites of the Stonewall Inn could become a national park if a campaign underway from the National Parks Conservation Association, a private advocacy group for parks, is successful.
The NCPA, at a forum it hosted June 23 at the LGBT Community Center, announced that the idea is set to come before Manhattan Community Board 2’s parks committee July 1 and the full board on July 23. The meeting at the Center, which drew veteran LGBT activists, neighborhood activists, preservationists, and aides to local elected officials, was held to gauge local support for the campaign, which will require the city to turn Christopher Park over to the federal government. That action would give President Barack Obama the opportunity to use the Antiquities Act to declare it a National Monument to be administered by the National Park Service.
Christopher Park includes the George Segal sculpture of gay and lesbian couples called “Gay Liberation,” which was dedicated in 1992.
While many questions were raised about the nature of the park and whether it would embrace other significant LGBT sites in the area and throughout the city in addition to the locale of the Stonewall Rebellion, no one in the gathering of about 50 people opposed the campaign. In fact, some were already actively engaged in it.
The NCPA advocates for the designation, but then it is up to the National Park Service to embrace the idea and conduct research on how to appropriately present the history of the site. Funds would come from the federal budget, but would need to be supplemented by a “Friends of” the park campaign as well.
With just over a year-and-a-half left in Obama’s term, there is an urgency about moving forward quickly on this, given the possibility that an unsympathetic Republican could succeed him in January 2017.
Cortney Worrall, senior regional director of the NPCA, who led the meeting, said she hopes the park will convey “the power of the Stonewall story and the transformation of Greenwich Village to what it is now.” She is also hoping for a big show of support at the Community Board 2 hearing on July 1.
Ken Lustbader, a veteran gay preservation advocate, said the Stonewall park would be part of “site-based history,” like Seneca Falls for the women’s movement and Selma for the Civil Rights movement. All three locations were famously cited in Obama’s second Inaugural Address.
Once the physical foothold of the park is secured, other elements can be added, including signage throughout the area and beyond, and information that can be accessed through an app.
Jim Fouratt, a Stonewall participant who just turned 74, said that he can think of “20 places within that square mile [that] have historic significance” to LGBT communities.