Wednesday, February 6, 2008


City told to stop digging up graves in park rehab

by patrick arden / metro new york
Feb. 6, 2008

GREENWICH VILLAGE. The indigent, unknown and disenfranchised were buried in Washington Square, when the park was a potter’s field from 1797 to 1825. Yellow fever in the early 1800s pushed the graveyard’s population to as high as 20,000.
Their bones began to turn up two weeks ago, as work started on the city’s controversial renovation of the park.

First, human and animal remains were found “mixed in with nails and other construction debris,” said Parks Dept. spokesperson Jama Adams, who pointed to prior construction in the park. Digging 15 “test spots,” archaeologists uncovered 70 to 80 bones in one spot alone; eventually four intact burials were found, though the Villager newspaper put the number of skeletons at seven. “None of these will be disturbed,” Adams said. “Work is ongoing.”
The news of the dead came just after the renovation of the park lurched forward, with the fountain’s dismantling and the pulling up of eight trees around the central plaza. Machines were actively removing ground.

“I don’t take the word ‘desecration’ lightly, but that is what is happening here,” said the Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, minister at the Judson Church, who will lead a protest tonight to call on the Bloomberg administration to halt construction and repair the park instead. “They should stop disturbing the dead,” said Schaper. “The city is disrespecting the community again.”
The 200 members of her congregation were “100 percent” against the city’s redesign of the park, she said. “Everyone wanted the park repaired, not renovated.”

Adams said the redesign has been adapted to leave bones in place. Stray bones will be analyzed by a forensic archaeologist off-site and then reburied.
Jonathan Greenberg was skeptical. He had fought the city’s plan with two lawsuits, one of which mentioned the potter’s field. Six days after bones were first uncovered, he saw four dump trucks in the park being filled with dirt. “There was no sifting of sand, no photographs being taken, no archaeologist looking at soil,” he said. “Who are we going to believe: the Parks Dept., or our own lying eyes?”

Hallowed ground
The federal government halted building downtown in the early ’90s to accommodate the African Burial Ground, a site that contains the remains of up to 20,000 free and enslaved Africans from about 1712 to 1795. They were barred from the cemeteries of most city churches. “The sanctity of a burial ground should not be desecrated,” said Brooklyn’s Rev. Herbert Daughtry. “I will never forget seeing the bones of ancestors who might have been my great-great-grandmama.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

they were digging a new foundation in Manhattan
and they discovered a slave cemetary there
may their souls rest easy
now that lynching is frowned upon
and we've moved on to the electric chair
and i wonder who's gonna be president, tweedle dum or tweedle dummer?
and who's gonna have the big blockbuster box office this summer?
how about we put up a wall between houses and the highway