Making Christopher Park a National Park

Ever since the Stonewall designation back in June, the push for designating LGBT sites around New York City and Greenwich Village has been met with more energy and enthusiasm.  One site in particular, Christopher Park, has gained the attention of the National Park Service (NPS), thanks to the advocacy of the National Parks Conservation Alliance, and non-profit group which advocates for our national parks, and which has proposed the Stonewall Inn, the park, and surrounding area be considered for some sort of national park service designation.

Christopher Park, Spring 2015.  Photo courtesy of Andre Becker.

Christopher Park, Spring 2015. Photo courtesy of Andre Becker.

The park, a .19-acre triangle formed by Christopher, Grove and West Fourth Streets, is across the street from the Stonewall Inn, and like the Inn itself, was the site of the 1969 riots that were the turning point in the modern LGBT rights movement.  The park also contains the George Segal sculpture “Gay Liberation,” which, installed in 1992, was at one point one of America’s only public monuments to the struggle for LGBT rights.  Currently the park is managed by a combination of the NYC Parks Department and the Christopher Park Alliance, a community group responsible for the maintenance and continued support of the park.  Led by Andre Becker, the Christopher Park Alliance helped with revitalization efforts, making the park the beautiful green space that it remains today.

If all goes according to a plan currently under discussion, the park could become a new National Park/Monument.  Currently, these plans are in discussion with Community Board 2 and their Stonewall/Christopher Park working group;  the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is a part of this group and participating in their discussions.  This working group also includes members of the public, representatives from the NPS, and the National Park Conservation Association.

Here’s how this process is proceeding and what it may ultimately mean:

National Park Service logo.

National Park Service logo.

Process:

  • In order for the park to enter the NPS, the land would need to be transferred to the federal government.
  • This transfer of land would be limited to the park land within the current fences. A mayoral decision or Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) would decide on this transfer.
  • Considerations from the community and Community Board 2 will be reviewed before any decision is made or process undertaken by the mayor or the city.
  • Once the land has been transferred to the federal government, the NPS will present the plan to the president, who can approve the park as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act (1906). In the case of this park, National Monument and National Park are interchangeable terms.
  • NPS and NPCA are hoping to get this transfer finalized by June in order to allow for ample time for the creation of this National Monument created under the Obama administration.
Christopher Park Alliance logo.  Image courtesy of christopherpark.org.

Christopher Park Alliance logo. Image courtesy of christopherpark.org.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Given all the local, state, and federal designations that already exist within the park and surrounding area, what would even be the significance of Christopher Park becoming a National Park/Monument?

While the area is already recognized as significant by the city, state, and federal government, by becoming part of the NPS, Christopher Park will also become part of the national narrative in a new and more public way.  Christopher Park would be the first National Park/Monument created solely on the basis of its role in the history of the LGBT rights movement.  This will help create a more well-rounded view of the story of the United States of America and our diverse communities, as well as more recognition for the rights of LGBT people everywhere.  In turn this designation will also set a precedent when other LGBT sites are considered for NPS designation.

How will the creation of this park affect traffic (pedestrian and vehicular) in my neighborhood?

The city and the NPS do not believe that the park and area will see a very significant increase in the number of visitors as a result of the designation.  People from all over the world already come to see the park; the designation will potentially offer them more information and interpretive material about the park’s historic significance.  Regardless, visitors will still be subject to the same laws that govern the park and the area currently.  Vehicular traffic patterns will not change and they will still be subjected to the laws in place by the Department of Transportation.

Christopher Park sign.  Photo courtesy of the Christopher Park Alliance.

Christopher Park sign. Photo courtesy of the Christopher Park Alliance.

Will designating the area a National Park/Monument make changes to the current park landscape?

Designating Christopher Park as a National Park/Monument will have little to no effect on the current park landscape.  The only change residents might see is the NYC Parks Department maple leaf sign replaced with the NPS arrowhead.

How will this designation affect current park management?

The NPS will work closely with both NYC Parks Department and community partnerships, such as the Christopher Park Alliance, to create a management plan for the park.  As the NPS has limited resources, they encourage and seek out alliances with preexisting space managers.  Therefore, Christopher Park, though a National Park/Monument, will continue its same management by both the Alliance and NYC Parks Department to ensure it remains at its same level of maintenance and care.

Will designating this area as part of the NPS affect current landmarks laws and designations?

As the NPS is first and foremost a preservation organization, this designation will not affect any current landmarks laws and designations within the park and surrounding area.

What will NPS presence at Christopher Park mean for the surrounding area?

Once Christopher Park has been established as a National Park/Monument, the NPS will then work with the community groups within the area and across NYC to get the whole story of LGBT rights surrounding the park and the Stonewall Inn.  This will ensure the creation of the most historically accurate narrative.  The NPS hopes to start leading occasional interpretive tours not only through the park but also the surrounding area in order to better tell the story of the fight for gay liberation and the places around Christopher Street and the Stonewall that not only added to this fight but the development of a strong LGBT community as well.  The NPS hopes that this designation of Christopher Park will pave the way for many more LGBT sites to be included within the NPS and national narrative.  For Christopher Park, they hope to work with the former and preexisting communities to find the best possible ways to tell their stories and develop this narrative.

Gay Liberation monument, Christopher Park.  Photo courtesy of http://www.tedeytan.com.

Gay Liberation monument, Christopher Park. Photo courtesy of http://www.tedeytan.com.

We encourage everyone to help add their voice and direct any support, questions, and concerns to Community Board 2, as well as attend the working group meetings.  Community members can also get involved with the day to day management of the park by contacting Andre Becker at the Christopher Park Alliance abecker@gmail.com.

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