Stonewall National Park effort

The Stonewall Inn and the adjoining storefront to its right now enjoy landmark status protecting the integrity of their facades. Photo by Gay City News

BY ANDY HUMM  |  Christopher Park across from the just-landmarked 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.

An N.C.P.A. official, at a forum it hosted June 23 at the L.G.B.T. Community Center on W. 13th St., announced that the idea was set to come before Community Board 2’s Parks Committee on Wed., July 1, and the full board on July 23.

The meeting at the Center, which drew veteran L.G.B.T. activists, neighborhood activists, preservationists and aides to local politicians, 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 allow President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to declare the park a national monument to be administered by the National Park Service.

Christopher Park includes the George Segal sculpture of gay and lesbian couples, “Gay Liberation,” which was dedicated in 1992.

Many questions were raised about the nature of designating the park and whether it would embrace other significant L.G.B.T. sites in the area and throughout the city. Yet, no one in the gathering of about 50 people opposed the effort.

N.C.P.A. 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 a year and a half left in Obama’s second term, there is an urgency about moving forward on this, given the possibility an unsympathetic Republican could succeed him in January 2017.

Cortney Worrall, senior regional director of N.P.C.A., 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 was also hoping for a big show of support at the C.B. 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, 74, said he could think of “20 places within that square mile that have historic significance” to L.G.B.T. communities.