Nadler Proposes to Expand Historic African Cemetery with Museum and Education Center
The African Burial Ground National Monument
Congressman Jerry Nadler is sponsoring to expand the African Burial Ground National Monument, the Lower Manhattan site that holds the remains of an estimated 15,000 African-Americans from the Colonial Era (both free and enslaved), with a new museum and education center.
On April 2, Mr. Nadler reintroduced legislation that would establish an African Burial Ground Advisory Council, which would manage the proposed museum, in partnership with the National Park Service (the agency that oversees the current National Monument). The new museum would additionally serve as a sister institution to Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“Tens of thousands of African men and women — both enslaved and free — built New York City,” Mr. Nadler said. “The adversity they faced, the tangible contributions they made, and the lasting impact they left on our city are all part of a story that deserves to be told and honored by New Yorkers. The African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act would establish a world-class museum as well as an educational and research center on the site of the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, where the remains of over 15,000 Africans are interred.”
Above: Remains of enslaved Africans being disinterred in the early 1990s, after the cemetery had been forgotten for centuries.Below: Frank Bender’s sculpture, “Unearthed,” used forensic facial reconstruction to render the images of three people buried there.
“For far too long,” he continued, “their lives have failed to receive the public remembrance or the historic recognition that they merit. With this bill, we hope to rectify that wrong by creating a permanent tribute not only to those resting at the Burial Ground, but also to the millions of enslaved Africans and their descendants who will be honored at the site.”
The facility that Mr. Nadler hopes to expand (located near Duane Street and Broadway) is the oldest and largest known historic burial ground in North America for free and enslaved Africans. It includes DNA samples from the remarkably well-preserved human remains that have enabled researchers to trace the home roots in Africa of those individuals buried at the ground. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, and became a National Historic Landmark in 1993. It was designated as a National Monument in 2006.
Mr. Nadler envisions a museum that will host complementary exhibits and foster collaboration with other institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities, historical societies and educational institutions, creating a stronger network of groups focused on strengthening the historic understanding of slavery.
Enslaved Africans first arrived in what was then called New Amsterdam in the 1620s. By 1741, they comprised nearly one-fourth of New York’s population, and the City’s headcount of black men and women in bondage was second only to that of Charleston, South Carolina. In that year, a rash of fires was ascribed to an alleged plot among slaves and impoverished white residents. For good measure, British colonial administrators also charged that both the cabal and the fires were inspired by secret allegiance to the Vatican. By the time the hysteria had subsided, dozens of supposed conspirators had been burned at the stake or hanged.
Congressman Jerry Nadler (center left), accompanied by other members of New York’s congressional delegation, announces his plan to expand the African Burial Ground National Monument with a new museum and education center.
The site now known as the African Burial Ground was first recorded as a place of interment for enslaved and free black people in the early 1700s. The location appears to have been chosen because it was at the outskirts of the settled area of Lower Manhattan. Decades later, it became a favorite target of grave-robbing physicians, for whom research cadavers were in short supply. By the late 1700s, the urban core had begun to expand northward, and the small valley that marked the site was filled in, burying the cemetery. When the newly raised and leveled land was commercially developed soon after, the fact that a graveyard for New York’s earliest black residents had once been located there was forgotten for centuries.
In the 1990s, as construction workers began excavating the foundation for a new federal office building at 290 Broadway (between Reade and Chambers Streets), they came upon dozens, then hundreds of intact burial sites—many of them containing artifacts related to African tribal religions and burial practices.
The new federal office building was redesigned to leave space for a memorial, and to rebury the hundreds of human remains that had been disinterred during construction. Three of these skeletons were analyzed by sculptor Frank Bender, who used forensic facial reconstruction techniques to create a haunting beautiful bronze, “Unearthed,” which faithfully renders the appearance of an elderly women, a middle-aged woman, and a young man, all of whom came to rest in the African Burial Ground.
“I held the eldest woman’s skull in my hands and felt that she had endured the most,” the artist later recalled. “The younger woman with the bandana had been shot in the back. The young man in the background, the youngest and tallest of the three, is rising for the hope-filled future. The three hands joined together in the earth conveys the idea that ‘we are all one in death.’”
An Informed Citizenry
LMHQ, the collaborative workspace operated by the Downtown Alliancefor companies in the technology, advertising, media, and information industries, will offer a free, online symposium, “Know Before You Vote: Who Does What,” on Wednesday, April 14, starting at noon.
The the League of Women Voters, the Alliance for Downtown New York, and the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association will partner to demystify this especially significant election year, in which not only the Mayor, City Comptroller, and Public Advocate, but also the Manhattan Borough President and Lower Manhattan’s City Council member, will all be new to their offices, as a result of term limits.
The next session in this series (on May 12) will explain the new phenomenon of ranked-choice voting. To register for either, please browse: https://lmhq.nyc/attend-event
Born to Be Wild
The Battery Park City Authority is urging residents to observe, admire, even adore local fauna—but to do so from a distance.
The agency’s Keep It Wild campaign springs from the Authority’s Strategic Plan, which aims (in part) to establish the 92 acres of the community as a biodiversity haven and sanctuary for nature.
Battery Park City is currently home to a diverse array of wildlife. More than 100 species of resident and migratory birds, along with countless species of insects (including native pollinators) inhabit local gardens and lawns, but these green spaces provide all the food and habitat the animals need.
Sadly, wildlife does not benefit from human interaction (however well intentioned), so the BPCA asks that residents avoid feeding animals and limit themselves to watching from a safe distance, for the safety of both man and beast.
Re: The New Roaring Twenties: New York City Won’t Be The Same, But It Will Be Great
(The BroadsheetDAILY April 8, 2021)
To the editor:
Andrew Greenblatt could be right. New York City could rebound. The question, as always, is rent.
My husband and I moved to Lower Manhattan in 1972 when the city was on its knees. (Ford to NY: Drop Dead). Cops were nowhere. There was “panic” in needle park. etc. But landlords with empty buildings were begging people to move in. Even if illegally. \We signed a commercial lease for our loft in what would become Tribeca because all the butter and egg and spice people had fled.
The big question today: now that the big corporations have gone, will landlords or the city LOWER rents or legalize buildings across the city to allow AFFORDABLE rents for artists and others to move in? We had to beg and plead for the Loft Law to make us legal. It took years.
Let’s not wait. The city right now has tons of empty office space that can never be filled. Create incentives NOW for landlords to create mixed use affordable housing in those buildings NOW.
Jean Bergantini Grillo
To the editor:
Great commentary by Andrew Greenblatt on New York’s resurgence. Ready to join the roar.
To the editor:
What joy to read this uplifting analysis! As a longtime resident, I agree with Andrew Greenblatt; Lower Manhattan will always bounce back. Thanks for everything, Broadsheet, but particularly for remembering that the spirit of our neighborhood is immortal.
M. M. De Voe
Re: Community Board 1 Discussion Tonight Will Examine Battery Park City Authority Finances
(The BroadsheetDAILY April 7, 2021)
To the editor:
Good luck, my former BPC condo owners. I saw the writing on the wall, sold and left.
In 2011, our ground rent doubled instead of tripled and the paper described it as a give away to the “fat cats” owners of Battery Park City. City politicians fall all over themselves to protect the renters ($480,000 per unit in saved PILOT???!!), but the owners can go fend for themselves.
State and local politicians are looking to use the PILOT to fund other projects and budget gaps. Meanwhile the owners (like I was) invested our life savings and invested in the City. Fat cats when most of us are living in 600 SF cookie cutter one-bedrooms.
Sorry, guys, it’s a beautiful community, but I could not afford to grow old there. Best of luck to all of you.
Alliance For Downtown New York Hosts 2021 Shred-A-Thon
And Clothing Drop-Off
After a year like the one we all just endured and the promise of a brighter day emerging, the idea of “spring cleaning” takes on new energy and meaning.
Now is the time to round up all the old clothes and unwanted documents that have been piling up and bring them over to Fulton Street (between Cliff and Gold Streets) for the Downtown Alliance’s annual dual shred-a-thon and clothing drop-off Saturday, April 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A shredding truck parked on Fulton Street will securely dispose of and recycle all your sensitive documents, tax receipts, junk mail and old bills.
The Alliance is also partnering with NYC clothing recycler Wearable Collections, which is providing a bin to collect all dry, used clean clothing including shoes, sneakers, belts and hats, as well as household items such as linens, towels and handbags.
Rain or shine, the Alliance will be there to dispose of your much-loved old outfits and no-longer-needed memories, minus a few items (e.g., carpeting, rugs, bath mats, comforters, pillows, large luggage). This spring will be even sweeter when you’ve got some extra space.
Every four years, New Yorkers get to vote for the mayor, public advocate, and city comptroller. During the same election, voters in each borough get to elect or re-elect their borough president and their city council member. But 2021 is a special year: thanks to turnover due to term limits, we have the unique opportunity to elect all new leaders. How do we ensure that we make the best possible choices during this pivotal election? Join LMHQ, the League of Women Voters, the Alliance for Downtown New York, and the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association for an overview of the roles and responsibilities of NYC’s elected officials. The presentation will provide all of the information you need to understand about their jobs in order to elect the leaders who will guide us out of the Covid-19 crisis and allow New York to restore and reimagine itself. Free
How can design and innovation bring life back to an ailing community? It’s a global challenge. Join us as XU Tiantian, one of China’s most innovative architects, presents inspiring projects in Zhejiang’s countryside and shares notes with Joel Mills of the American Institute of Architects about how great design can make a difference. In the U.S., urban neighborhoods have suffered as the middle class has moved to the suburbs. But in China, ancient rural villages are crumbling as farmers flock to the new, glistening cities. A rural revitalization movement is beginning to tackle these problems, and architecture is playing a key role. Free
Upcoming Community Board Meetings This Week
4/15 Quality of Life & Service Delivery Committee 6PM
4/15 Quality of Life & Service Delivery Committee – 6:30 PM
‘No Epitaphs Spill Out’
The Stella Adler Studio of Acting will host, “This is Not a Small Voice: An Evening of Poetry as Celebration” (part of its Harold Clurman Poetry Reading Series) on Tuesday, April 20 (starting at 7pm). Readers will include contemporary poets Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Sonia Sanchez, and Aracelis Girmay. This online event is free, and open to the public.
East River Park Advocates Demand to See Resiliency Planning Documents
A coalition of activists based on the Lower East Side has filed suit against the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to force the release of documents detailing plans for resiliency infrastructure between Montgomery and East 25th Street.
The group, calling itself East River Park Action, contends that a consensus plan to make the East River Park safe from climate change, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events, which had widespread community support, was abruptly abandoned by City Hall in three years ago.
New York City Won’t Be The Same, But It Will Be Great
A chorus of New York naysayers are telling us that the City will never be the same after this pandemic. They are right—but not in the way they think. New York City is on the cusp of another “Roaring 20’s,” and I, for one, can’t wait.
One hundred years ago we were recovering from a pandemic (the Spanish Flu) and a Great War that spread fear and death. New York is facing a similar trauma. Loved ones lost are never coming back. Some of us have lost jobs, homes, or even just our favorite restaurants. A century ago, when it was all over, people were ready to let loose—and let loose they did. I believe that a similar spirit is about to start a recovery that will reshape the city in exciting ways, creating new opportunities for many.
Local Leaders Seek Temporary Easing of Federal Mortgage Regulations on Condominiums and Cooperatives
Community Board 1 is calling upon elected officials to intercede on behalf of condominiums and cooperatives, where the economic downtown triggered by the pandemic coronavirus has resulted in distressed finances. To read more…
The Fate of a Neighborhood
State’s Highest Court Blocks Suit by Brewer, Chin Opposing Two Bridges Plan
On Tuesday, the New York State Court of Appeals effectively ended a lawsuit begun in 2018, in which Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin sought to compel the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to subject several massive residential developments planned for the Lower East Side to the highest-possible degree of legal scrutiny. New York’s highest judicial review panel upheld an August ruling by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, which itself had overturned a 2019 lower-court decision favoring Ms. Brewer and Ms. Chin. To read more…
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Report
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Brewer Pushes for FiDi Thoroughfare to Be Made Pedestrian-Friendly in Perpetuity
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is pushing the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to expand and make permanent a trial implementation of the Open Street program in Lower Manhattan. Since last summer, the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has each day restricted vehicular access to Pearl Street, between Broad Street and Hanover Square, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm and again from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm To read more…
Local Leaders Get Irredentist to Reclaim Park Space Dispossessed for a Decade
Community Board 1 (CB1) wants the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to give back park space beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that was “temporarily” closed more than a decade ago. The area, informally known as “Brooklyn Banks,” is an iconic destination for skateboarders, because the streetscape provides an undulating terrain of ramps, rails, ledges, and jumps. Long before any of these stunts were legal in New York, boarders from around the United States would come to the City to compete there, and connect with one another. To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
43 BC – Battle of Forum Gallorum: Mark Antony, besieging Julius Caesar’s assassin Decimus Junius Brutus in Mutina, defeats the forces of the consul Pansa, who is killed.
1191 – 85-year old Giacinto Bobo becomes Pope Coelestinus III
1434 – The foundation stone of Cathedral St. Peter and St. Paul in Nantes, France is laid.
1777 – NY adopts new constitution as an independent state
1841 – Edgar Allen Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” published
1860 – First Pony Express rider arrives in San Francisco from St Joseph, Missouri
1865 – Secretary of State William H. Seward and his family are attacked in his home by Lewis Powell.
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater
1894 – First public showing of Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope (moving pictures)
1912 – RMS Titanic hits an iceberg at 11.40pm off Newfoundland
1927 – The first Volvo car premieres in Gothenburg, Sweden.
1939 – John Steinbeck novel “The Grapes of Wrath” published
1948 – A flash of light is observed in crater Plato on Moon
1948 – NYC subway fares jump from 5 cents to 10 cents
1954 – Soviet diplomat Vladimir Petrov asks for politics asylum in Canberra
1958 – Sputnik 2 (with dog Laika) burns up in atmosphere
1973 – Acting FBI director L Patrick Gray resigns after admitting he destroyed evidence in the Watergate scandal
1978 – Korean Air Lines Boeing Flight 007, fired on by Soviets, crashes in Russia
1981 – First Space Shuttle Columbia returns to Earth
1999 – A severe hailstorm strikes Sydney, Australia causing A$1.7 billion in insured damages, the most costly natural disaster in Australian history.
2003 – The Human Genome Project is completed with 99% of the human genome sequenced to an accuracy of 99.99%.
1629 – Christian Huygens, Holland, astronomer (discovered Saturn’s rings)
1889 – Arnold Toynbee, England, historian (Study of History)
1912 – Robert Doisneau, photographer
1976 – The Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein (32) weds writer and director Nora Ephron (34) at a civil ceremony in Manhattan
1994 – Musician Billy Joel and model Christie Brinkley announce plans to divorce
1099 – Conrad, bishop of Utrecht, stabbed to death
1759 – George Frideric Handel, Baroque composer and organist (Water Music), dies at 74
1964 – Rachel Carson, American biologist/author (Silent Spring), dies at 56
1986 – Simone de Beauvoir, French author (She Came to Stay), dies of pneumonia at 78