On Pride Weekend, the Stonewall Visitor Center Opens

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On Pride Weekend, the Stonewall Visitor Center Opens


Good morning. It’s Friday. Today, and on Fridays through the summer, we’ll focus on things to do in New York over the weekend.

Diana Rodriguez, the chief executive of Pride Live, which runs the new Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, pointed to an old-fashioned jukebox.

“Go ahead, give it a whirl,” she said.

I dropped in a Stonewall-branded coin and chose a song.

The machine whirred, for five seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, as Rodriguez explained that it was the same model as the one that was at the Stonewall Inn on the night of the Stonewall uprising 55 years ago — the event that ushered in an era of gay pride and activism for gay rights.

Five more seconds passed before the music started — the gospel standard “Oh Happy Day.”

The jukebox is just one of the elements that mix past and present in the $3.2 million visitor center in Greenwich Village, which opens today after six years of development. The center, which is privately funded, largely through corporate donations, memorializes the bar’s history and the night in 1969 when a police raid set off several days of riots.

It is small, considering the significance of what happened there and its standing as the first national monument to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and history. But the Stonewall Inn wasn’t very large to begin with, and there is, in fact, a lot to see.

Readying the center for today’s opening became a personal project for Rodriguez, 58, a queer woman whose family has served in the U.S. military for four generations. Her uncle Tony Torres, a gay man, served in combat in the Army in Vietnam. But when he died of AIDS in 1989, no one from his unit came to his funeral.

The flag that was on his coffin now sits just inside the entrance, along with his medals and dog tag, to remind visitors of “what happens in life, and that people can inspire us,” she said.

How the past shaped — and continues to shape — the present is a theme that echoes through the nearly 2,100-square-foot center, the vision for which began taking shape after President Barack Obama designated the site a national monument in 2016. The designation included the modern-day Stonewall Inn, a reincarnation of the original with different owners, in the building next to the visitor center. The designation also covered Christopher Park across the street, which was restored in the 1980s and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1999.

The designation was a great first step, Rodriguez said, but there was no infrastructure to support it. Now, there is.

A wall of black-and-white photos traces the history of Stonewall from the days before it was a bar — it was once a bakery, a restaurant and a stable before becoming the Stonewall Inn in 1967. The display pays tribute to Stonewall as the catalyst for organizations like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, as well as the inspiration for the decades of Pride marches that began in 1970 and will continue on Sunday. (The NYC Pride March will step off at noon from Fifth Avenue and 25th Street. It will be broadcast on WABC-TV.)

At the end of the room is a white-walled theater space, with 40 chairs arranged in front of a pull-down screen. Against the wall are a dozen shovels with the logos of corporate donors like Google and Amazon.

But what was unexpectedly memorable on a walk-through with Rodriguez was a silver outline on the floor — “where the bar once stood,” she said.

A few steps away is a display about Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the founders of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a group that provided support to young people who had been shunned by their families. And to inaugurate a space for rotating art exhibitions, there are two paintings. One, by Ang R. Bennett, is called “To the Ones We Forgot.” It shows a man and a woman encircled by a floral wreath against a brick wall.

The other painting, by the digital artist Fewocious, is a chaotic representation of a fractured face. In the background are phrases like “No, it wasn’t easy” — a reminder, Rodriguez said, of the Stonewall uprising and its continuing legacy.


Weekend Weather

On Friday, enjoy a sunny day with low humidity and temperatures in the high 70s, followed by a mostly clear evening and temperatures in the mid-60s. For the rest of the weekend, expect higher humidity and a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Temperatures will be in the 80s during the day and in the high 60s or the low 70s at night.

ALTERNATE-SIDE PARKING

In effect until Thursday (Independence Day).


  • A Wonderland weekend: Join the Queen of Hearts at the New York Botanical Garden on Saturday or Sunday for a “Mad for Summer Family Weekend.” At 1 p.m. each day, pot begonias, create watercolor artworks and more. Costumes are encouraged.

  • A queer family musical: At 2 p.m. Saturday, watch a performance of “Rainbow Seekers,” an interactive musical, at Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

For more events in New York, here’s a list of what to do this month.


METROPOLITAN diary

Dear Diary:

After collecting change in a glass jar on my windowsill for months, I was finally ready to cash in my tattoo fund.

On the way to work, I stopped to use the coin exchange machine at a bank across the street from my Midtown office: $103.87.

At noon, I told my co-workers that I was going down to St. Marks Place.

“The tattoo parlor says they are not busy right now,” I said as I ran out, cash in hand. “See you all after lunch.”

One stop on the express to Union Square, then I jog-walked past the Astor Place cube and onto St. Marks.

I showed the woman at the front desk my design.

“How much will it cost, and how long do you think it’ll take?” I asked.

“$100,” she said. “And it won’t take long — half an hour tops.”

I had barely caught my breath when a young woman with short black bangs, winged eyeliner and latex gloves led me further into the parlor.

She wiped my forearm and began her work.

“It’s a beautiful name,” she said as she drew the last letter with her ink gun.

“It’s my daughter’s,” I gushed. “She turns 1 today.”

I thanked her, hugged her and went to the register.

When it was my turn to pay, I handed the woman $100 and rolled down my sleeve.

“Do you want to leave a tip?” she asked.

I had forgotten that entirely. All I had left was $3.87. I handed it over, mortified.

I guess I shouldn’t go back there again.

— Gabriela Ponce

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