By Scotty Elyanow
Christopher Park, the triangular park located at the intersection of West 4th, Grove, and Christopher Streets with Seventh Avenue to the West and Waverly Place to the East was created back on April 5th, 1837 due to demand for an open space from the local residents after overcrowding and a major fire took place in 1835.
On June 27th, 1969, the Stonewall Uprising took place outside the Stonewall Inn on the north side of the park and since then the park has been a symbol of the Gay Liberation Movement.
In 1999, Christopher Park, along with Stonewall Inn and surrounding neighborhood streets, was placed on the New York State Register of Historic Places.
By 2013, the park was in terrible shape, with dozens of rat burrows, numerous patches of ivy, battered oil drums as garbage cans, burnt out plants and brush. In the fall of that year, several concerned community members gathered to resurrect the park for the physical and aesthetic enjoyment of all their neighbors and visitors.
- Remarkably, with no budget and little experience, the newly formed Christopher Park Alliance did the following:
- Enlisted and directed more than 300 volunteers from 20 plus corporations and educational institutions to strip and repaint 1,100 posts and finials of the 150-year-old wrought-iron fence surrounding park
- Revitalized front and back gardens—removing over 100 bags of invasive plants and weeds, installing irrigation systems, remediating soil in front gardens in partnership with New York Horticultural Society, planting new perennials, planning and installing colorful spring and summer flower gardens annually, initiating an ongoing rodent extermination program
- Developed and maintained effective communication and cooperation with Community Board II, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Partnership for Parks, National Parks Conservation Association, National Parks Service, NYC Police 6th Precinct and the community.
- Engaged surrounding businesses (e.g. Jeffrey’s Grocery, Joseph Leonard, Monster Bar, Duplex, Stonewall, Kettle of Fish, Down the Hatch, and others), and individuals to provide support for the park’s revitalization.
- Solicited and secured decorative trash receptacles from Village Alliance and private donations to replace the “Gay Liberation” sign after it had been mistakenly made illegible by NYC Parks Art and Antiquities crew while restoring the patina on the statues.
- Championed local interests during the negotiations to transfer park from NYC to the National Park Service to ensure that the park would continue to serve needs of local community and provided seamless support throughout the transition process.
Over the years, this was all accomplished for less than $50,000, thanks to countless hours from community volunteers, neighbors, and valuable insight from advisors. But the Christopher Park Alliance is always looking for volunteers and financial support within the community to keep the park looking healthy and inviting to our neighbors and thousands of visitors each year.
In June, 2016, President Obama created Stonewall National Monument, with Christopher Park as its heart, as the first national monument to honor the struggle for LGBTQ rights in America. Establishing the national monument entailed the transfer of the park from New York City to the National Park Service.
The mission of Christopher Park Alliance is to work together with the community, the National Park Service, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to maintain and enhance Christopher Park as a scenic, historic, peaceful landmark in West Greenwich Village. The Alliance aspires to secure the financial and organizational future of Christopher Park for future generations by building a diverse community of volunteers, residents, and businesses to care for the park while providing a public space for locals and tourists to sit quietly and enjoy the garden and historic monuments within the park.
The Christopher Park Alliance is holding their annual garden party to benefit Christopher Park at Jeffrey’s Grocery at 172 Waverly (at Christopher) on Monday May 21 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. You may get tickets in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to the generous commitment of Jeffrey’s, all proceeds for the party go to the Christopher Park Alliance. Come meet your neighbors and fellow advocates.
Information taken from the Christopher Park Alliance and NYC Parks Department. Edited by Scotty Elyanow, Board Member of the Christopher Park Alliance, and Christopher Street Resident.