Stonewall Inn Historic Landmark = just a good P.R. move by NYC?

Hooray!  Stonewall Inn is an Historic Landmark.  Wait, it already was.

The Stonewall was already part of the city-designated Greenwich Village Historic District, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. But speakers at the hearing said the individual city landmark designation was necessary to preserve the Stonewall and recognize its historic importance.

“It must be protected against rapacious developers who would destroy the history of this sacred place and all it represents,” Letitia James, the city’s public advocate, said. –

Stonewall Inn has been on the State and National Register of Historic Places for the past 16 years so why did it take so long for NYC to do what the federal government already did?  It does take public interest for city historical status to occur so how big of a push was there to get Stonewall Inn onto the city's list?  Here's one telling from 2014 of the work done to make Stonewall Inn a NYC Landmark.

“It’s amazing that the NYC Landmarks Commission is 15 years behind the federal government in terms of recognizing LGBT landmarks,” Andrew Bergman, the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, said in a phone interview.

The GVSHP has been working since January (2014) to petition the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the Stonewall Inn and Julius Bar — the first gay bar in the city — as city historic landmarks, offering them protection not afforded to them strictly under the historic district designation. Because these buildings are in the Greenwich Village National Historic District, any changes to the buildings would have to first be approved, but due to the fact that these sites became historic after the designation, their historical significance isn’t part of the designation report as it was filed at the end of the 1960s. And while national and state designation for Stonewall as a landmark does offer incentive to protecting and maintaining the site, these designations don’t offer solid protection against major changes. –

This NYU blog stated there was a heavy push for New York City historical status at the beginning of 2014 by the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation.  So why now?  Was it just due after 16 years of seeing it on the national list?  Did the NYC Landmark Preservation Committee (LPC) finally give in and meet the federal government's designation?  And what great timing to have it occur during our Pride Month.

I guess we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.  Where does that saying come from? Horses are evaluated on many levels, but one of the big spot checks is to look into the mouth and inspect the teeth and gums to see if the horse is healthy but mainly to judge its age.  As horses get older, teeth move to the front and gum recession occurs, so by looking into the mouth, the receiver can see if the person is honest with what he is giving as a gift.  I am sure there is honesty and great intention from NYC LPC for granting Stonewall Inn its designation and it is rightly due, but okay, I'm going to look into the horse's mouth.  Why did we finally get the horse? 

For many years, the Landmark Preservation Committee has been battling what to do with its backlog of applications.

All of the sites and historic districts have been on the LPC calendar since at least 2010.

So Stonewall Inn had to be on the list since 2010  but I am sure it hasn't been there since 1969…

Of the 95 sites and historic districts, 31 have been calendared for 40 or more years, 25 have been under consideration for 30 to 40 years and 24 have been up for consideration for 20 to 30 years. Fifteen items were calendered between five and 20 years ago.

"Cleaning up that backlog will ensure the LPC can much more effectively fulfill its mission of responding to the landmarking issues of today in real time," Norvell said.

Under the city's landmarks process, a building or historic district can be nominated by the LPC or the community for consideration. Once the LPC staff studies the request and meets with the building's owners, the building is placed on the calendar and a hearing is held if the property or district is deemed worthy. 

If no decision is made after the hearing, the project is considered to still be "calendered."

Being on the LPC's calendar provides the building with a modicum of protection because the Department of Buildings notifies the commission if building or demolition permits for a site with such a designation are requested. The commission then has 40 days to make a decision on a site's landmark status.  –

I am not saying the singular intent of designating Stonewall Inn a NYC Historical Landmark was for the NYC LPC to use our Pride month to save face, but it would be a great public relations opportunity.  Just last year, the LPC was planning on discarding all 95 calendared sites and districts, coming under huge criticism for its intentions.  So was this gay dedication done for some good P.R.? One may never know.  But the gay community is probably the most visual and talked about minority in local, state, and national politics. We supposedly only make up 2 to 3 percent of the nation's population, but it is amazing how our presence is felt.  It may have been a possibility that someone in the LPC planned this positive occurrence during Pride using a very visible event to show LPC's forward movement in getting through their backlog.


Some of the other venues on LPC's list are an old power plant, a Pepsi sign, churches, cemeteries, and Harlem YMCA.  I do not believe the act of designating any of these would have the national and international impact that Stonewall Inn did and with Pride month being here, well that was the icing, sprinkles, and candles on the cake. 

Of course, this is just my mind working in overtime. These are just my thoughts and conjecture.  You can tell me to shut up as you have in the past.  And I don't mean to tarnish a wonderful event.  No, I am not pointing fingers or saying ulterior motives were present.  I applaud the LPC for recognizing a cultural and historic landmark not for its beauty but for its symbolism.  The New York Times stated, "The Stonewall is not architecturally distinguished and would not earn landmark status on aesthetic grounds, several speakers noted."  So the LPC took a great leap forward with LGBT national and international history in mind.  I just hope it was for the right reasons.  Maybe I should just take the horse and go and stop thinking about its teeth. But how many more horses city landmarks will the NYC LPC give the LGBT community in the near future?  Are there more that should be considered?

But Stonewall, although very important to the LGBT movement, isn’t the only site activists have asked the Commission to consider for landmarking. Other sites include Julius’ Bar on 159 West 10th Street, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center on 208 West 13th Street, and the former Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse on 99 Wooster Street. Despite efforts, the Commission has not expressed interest in considering these sites for landmarking—not yet at least. –

Here are some pictures of places currently on the NYC LPC list.

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