Stonewall National Monument on Pride Weekend 2016.Photo: Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons
The Biden administration clears a plan to hoist a pride flag and install a permanent flag pole in Christopher Park, directly across from Stonewall Inn and on federal property encompassed by the National Monument of Stonewall.
Under the Trump administration, activists were unable to hoist a flag pole or a pride flag despite repeated requests to the National Park Service (NPS) that were ultimately unsuccessful.
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Gay city news reports that after years of contestation over whether or not the proposed mast placement was federal territory, the Biden administration and Home Secretary Deb Haaland received the proposal and cleared the plan to move forward .
“This new flag pole will be permanently located at the front and center of the beautiful gardens of Christopher Park,” NPS regional director Gay Vietzke said in a letter to Michael Petrelis, an activist who has been organizing for years the placement of the flag pole.
âI am delighted that the Rainbow Flag is flown 24/7 on federal property that is part of Stonewall National Monument,â Petrelis said of the news. “I was happy that the rainbow flag fluttered on the flagpole of Greenwich Villageâ¦ but it was not federal property, and that was my ultimate goal.”
In 2019, it was revealed that the Trump administration had chosen not to claim public lands operated by NPS, which prevented activists from moving forward by hoisting a pride flag in 2017.
A short 2017 email in the 992-page email dump of then Home Office Assistant Under-Secretary Todd Willens read: “Can you please get NPS details and report? “
Willens ordered the flag to be removed that year, five days before a ceremony in honor of the flag. After further emails, NPS officials determined that the flagpole was not on federal property and therefore was a gift to New York City.
According to a 2015 survey, the tiny Triangular Christopher Park is the only part of the much larger national monument that is owned by the federal government. The flag pole is located just outside the park.
âThe first thing that stood out was the lack of substantive information on the subject of the controversy,â said Petrelis. E&E News at the time. His emails are part of the email cache when he requested information about the flag.
âIt was clear to me, as a longtime advocate of government transparency, that they were professional bureaucrats who knew not to commemorate their substantive discussions in writing. “
A manager in the emails said the same. “Please keep in mind that this exchange may be the subject of a FOIA request in the future,” Philadelphia regional communications chief John Warren wrote in an email.
New York activist and organizer Ken Kidd said he had a positive relationship with New York NPS officials, until federal officials in DC got involved.
âThe authorities were washing their hands of the whole project – it was a crazy city; it was shocking, âhe said.
âCommunication has just changed completely and dramatically,â he said. âThere was a little radio silence, then, as the emails attest, the message changed, and then all of a sudden the mast was no longer part of the federal envelope.