Yesterday, more than 40,000 people made their way down Fifth Avenue for the annual NYC Pride March. In step with the city’s LGBT Pride activities, Governor Cuomo’s office took the opportunity to announce the design of the first official New York State-commissioned monument honoring the LGBT community.
The monument will be located in Hudson River Park in Greenwich Village and is meant to commemorate both the 49 people who died in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016, as well as all victims of LGBT-targeted hate crimes.
The Brooklyn-based artist Anthony Goicolea designed the site to feature nine boulders, many of which are bisected with a slash of laminated, borosilicate glass. The glass’s refractory quality creates a prism-like effect, reflecting slim rainbows of light onto the surrounding patch of grass that overlooks the Hudson River.
Goicolea—a multi-media artist known for his work examining issues of identity—answered a request for proposals that went out in October 2016 from the governor’s office, shortly after Governor Cuomo set up the LGBT Memorial Commission in response to the Orlando nightclub shooting. In an article for the New York Times, Goicolea cites Stonehenge and Easter Island, as well as burial mounds and African stone circles, as inspirations for his rainbow-churning boulders. “This monument will serve as a communal space filled with light, color, and hope where the visitors can sit, mourn, love, and remember for years to come,” he says in a statement.
Besides the rainbow’s importance in the iconography of LGBT rights, Hudson River Park has its own significance as a site: the nearby waterfront piers have been a meeting place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people since the 1970s. New York City itself has also historically been a haven for LGBT people and a key city for advancing the movement for LGBT rights. In addition to the Stonewall Inn—site of the 1969 riots and one of the best-known gay historical site in the country—the city houses three other sites that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places for their significance to LGBT. The Greenwich Village gay bar Julius’, the Chelsea residence of civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, and the Staten Island home of the photographer Alice Austen have all been added since 2014. New York also passed the historic Marriage Equality Act in 2011, becoming the most populous state to allow same-sex marriages until California re-legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.
Yet today, as the Supreme Court announced it would hear a discrimination case against the Colorado cake shop which cited religious objections to same-sex marriage, it’s clear that the LGBT community still has to fight for its rights. The monument, at least, is a luminous symbol that the state of New York stands with them.