The ability of government to actually get something done remarkably fast – the creation of the Stonewall National Monument within about two years – was celebrated at the Midtown offices the National Parks Conservation Association (NCPA) on October 25, bringing together people who made it happen from the LGBT community, neighborhood groups, and government from City Hall to Albany to Congress and the White House.
The private NPCA got the ball rolling, managed to get unanimous buy-in from the often fractious LGBT activist community, found a champion in West Side Congressmember Jerry Nadler who, assisted by aide Robert Atterbury, introduced federal legislation for it and coordinated local, state, and federal approvals, which led to President Barack Obama making the designation of little Christopher Park and its environs outside the Stonewall Inn, where the 1969 rebellion took place, as a national monument. Nadler called the whole effort “a tribute to the significance of Stonewall,” a fierce uprising that led to immediate and ongoing organizing that quickly became the modern LGBT movement.
Ken Lustbader, who runs the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said he appealed to the Department of the Interior in 1994 for historic designation for the Stonewall and was told it was “too recent and too limited” an event for the feds to take seriously.
Cortney Worrall of the NPCA talked about “an amazing group of people pulling together” making this happen – and about how people from all over the world are making “pilgrimages” to the monument and now encountering Park Service rangers there to explain its historic significance. She added, “People want a visitors center” at the site and one is being worked on.
Allan Dailey, a supervising park ranger, said his rangers recently met with “seven out ninth graders” and that one of the girls said that she came out after reading about how this monument was declared.
Stacy Lentz, the owner of the Stonewall bar across the street from the monument calls the bar “a living, breathing place” and wants to keep it going as a bar rather than turning it into a museum — though she suggested the nail parlor next door, which was once part of the original Stonewall Inn, would make a good museum.
The evening before NPCA party, Mary Lambert, a #FindYourPark Ambassador for the National Park Service, did a surprise pop-up performance outside of the Stonewall.