US monument status won't guarantee Stonewall Inn's future

AP News
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Posted: May 15, 2016 7:42 PM
US monument status won't guarantee Stonewall Inn's future

NEW YORK (AP) — The area surrounding the Stonewall Inn is poised to become the first national monument dedicated to gay rights, but that doesn't necessarily mean the property will always be a bar.

There's actually nothing in the national monument designation or even the city's landmark law to prevent New York's most famous gay bar from someday becoming a coffee shop, a frozen yogurt joint or anything else.

The tavern was the site of a 1969 uprising that is widely viewed as the start of the modern-day gay rights movement. The bar closed that same year, just months after patrons resisted a police raid.

The space was occupied for years by other businesses, including a bagel shop and a Chinese restaurant, before it reopened as a bar in the 1990s. In Stonewall's current incarnation, under new owners since 2006, half the original space occupied by the bar is now a nail salon.

Co-owner Stacy Lentz said she and her partners bought the bar "to preserve history and make sure it wasn't made into a Starbucks." She said she is thrilled by the national monument discussions.

"This solidifies everything we have worked for to keep the legacy alive for generations to come," she said.

The management company that owns the building did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The monument would be located in public spaces and possibly a small triangle of land across from the tavern.

But U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who's been pushing for the national monument designation for years, says nothing would force the Stonewall to remain a bar.

President Barack Obama is expected to move quickly to greenlight the monument, two people familiar with the administration's plans told The Associated Press. They weren't authorized to discuss the plans publicly and requested anonymity.

Nadler said the spot is worth recognizing because it would "tell the story of the United States," as do park sites in Seneca Falls, New York, dedicated to the women's rights movement, and Selma, Alabama, named for the civil rights movement.

The Stonewall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark. It was designated a New York City landmark last year, the first time a site had received the designation because of its significance to LGBT history.

Originally built as stables in the 1840s, adjoining buildings at 51 Christopher Street still have the brick-and-stucco facade that greeted bar-goers the night of the June 28, 1969, protests.

What began as a police raid escalated into days of street demonstrations that triggered an activist movement and prompted gay New Yorkers to stop hiding their identities and speak out publicly.

Patrons at the Stonewall are ecstatic the area will be recognized with a national monument. Jonathan Early called the Stonewall "the heart of the LGBT movement." And as he passed by the bar last week, Jesse Furman said, "It really says something. It is a place of so much happiness and acceptance. Think about it. This is America's landmark for the gay community."

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Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.

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