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The BroadsheetDAILY ~ Lower Manhattan’s Newspaper ~ 6/10/21 ~ CB1 Endorses Proposal for Museum at Lower Manhattan’s Final Resting Place of Untold Thousands of African Americans
CB1 Endorses Proposal for Museum at Lower Manhattan’s Final Resting Place of Untold Thousands of African Americans
The African Burial Ground National Monument, located in Lower Manhattan.
Community Board 1 (CB1) is getting behind a proposal by Congressman Jerry Nadler 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.
In a resolution enacted at its April 27 meeting, CB1 said that it, “supports the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act, which would establish a museum and education center at the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan that would serve as a sister site to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.”
This comes in response to Mr. Nadler’s recent sponsorship of a proposal federal law 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).
“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.”
“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.”
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 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.
Remains of enslaved Africans being disinterred in the early 1990s, after the cemetery had been forgotten for centuries.
Frank Bender’s sculpture, “Unearthed,” used forensic facial reconstruction to render the images of three people buried there.
The proposed museum and education center would be located at a spot that was originally outside of the City walls of colonial New York. Once known as the Negroes Burial Ground, the cemetery was active from the 1690s through the 1790s, and once covered more than six acres. In a final indignity for the people interred there, a scandal erupted in the 1780s when it was discovered that local physicians and medical students (for whom research cadavers were in short supply) were illegally exhuming recently buried corpses of African Americans and using them for dissections and experiments. (This culminated with a riot in 1788, in which most of New York’s doctors were forced into hiding, while cavalry units were called into the streets to disperse outraged crowds.)
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.’”
‘There Are Fundamental Issues That Need To Be Addressed’
City Council Candidate Gigi Li Talks about What She Hopes to Accomplish in Office
Gigi Li is one of the candidates seeking the City Council seat representing Lower Manhattan is, which is currently held by Margaret Chin (who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection). Ms. Li was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to the United States as a small child. In 2009, she was appointed to Manhattan’s Community Board 3, on the Lower East Side, where she became the first Asian-American to be elected to serve as a community board chair (anywhere in New York City) in 2012. Since 2019, Ms. Li has served as chief of staff to Ms. Chin. The Broadsheet asked her to address a range of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents.
Broadsheet: Are you willing to commit to a carve-out for residents living within the toll zone who will be trapped by congestion pricing—as is already done for all other residents living within similar toll zones (e.g. Staten Island, Broad Channel, the Rockaways, and Grand Island)?
Ms. Li: Yes. Congestion pricing is important to improve quality of life and is a step to building a greener and more resilient City, but residents of Lower Manhattan need the same exemptions as residents in other parts of the City to make it equitable. To read more…
In Doyle They Trust
New Leadership Comes at Crucial Juncture for HRPT
The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) has new leadership: Last Thursday, the organization’s board of directors voted to appoint Noreen Doyle as president, following the departure in March of longtime chief executive officer Madelyn Wils.
Ms. Doyle has served since 2004 as HRPT’s executive vice president, and was more recently named acting president, when Ms. Wils stepped down. This is Ms. Doyle’s second tenure with the Trust, having served in various capacities there from 1994 through 2001. During the intervening years, she worked for AKRF, Inc., an environmental and planning consultant.
Appeals Court Okays City Plan Move of Homeless Men to 52 William, But Calls It ‘Moot’
On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division issued a decision that will allow the City’s Department of Homeless Services to proceed with a plan to transfer many dozens of homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel, on the Upper West Side, to the Radisson Wall Street Hotel, located at 52 William Street.
This order dismissed an ongoing suit, brought by a coalition of groups, which sought to allow the men to remain in the Lucerne Hotel. The Appellate Division judges ruled narrowly on the issue of standing, finding that the original lawsuit was moot because the three homeless men named as lead plaintiffs last year have since been moved out of the Lucerne and into permanent housing.
Operators of New Ferry Service Predict Launching by Summer
At the June 2 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, officials from the City’s Economic Development Corporation offered an update on their plans for a new ferry that will connect Staten Island to Battery Park City and Midtown.
Jeff Brault, the director of public affairs at NYC Ferry—the company designated by the City’s Economic Development Corporation to operate a network of new routes connecting Manhattan to the outer boroughs—began the discussion by saying, “the next time we speak, the new ferry will have already begun service.”
Committee chair Justine Cuccia asked, “do you have a launch date?”
Mr. Brault replied, “not yet. Basically we’re working really hard. We already have a dock in place at Battery Park City, but not in St. George,” the site of the ferry landing in Staten Island.
Ivan Vamos was born in March 1938 in Budapest, Hungary, nearly the same day that German troops marched into neighboring Austria. After Ivan’s father was killed and his grandfather was badly beaten, his mother, who was a professional photographer, arranged false papers for Ivan and herself and took him into hiding in the Hungarian countryside. A year later, she and Ivan walked back to Budapest and found refuge in a crowded apartment—a “protected house” like those established by Raoul Wallenberg. When German forces occupied Hungary, Ivan and his mother escaped once again—this time to a bombed-out apartment house in Budapest, where they hid in smoldering ruins until liberation in 1945. After emigrating to the United States in 1947, Ivan led a successful career in public service, including serving as Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Development at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. In this Stories Survive program, Ivan will share his remarkable story of surviving the Holocaust in Hungary and the lessons he takes from this dark chapter of his childhood. $10
Community Board 1’s Quality of Life & Service Delivery Committee
1) Construction Disruption Oversight – Presentations by Department of Design and Construction and any other relevant agencies, contractors, or community construction liaisons – Please attend if you have a construction issue that needs to be addressed.
2) Victim’s Compensation Fund Deadline Discussion – Presentation by Mariama James
Sharabi is a Yiddish-Punjabi bhangra-funk-klezmer party band, fronted by trumpeter Frank London, a founding member of the Grammy-winning group the Klezmatics, and New York’s top-call Indian percussionist, Deep Singh. Join the Museum and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance for an outdoor summer concert in Wagner Park featuring Sharabi and Yiddish singer Sarah Gordon, co-presented by Yiddish New York. Be prepared—Sharabi means intoxicated. Possessed. By love. By ecstasy. By spirits (of the highest proof)! Free
To kick off the 2021 River To River Festival, LMCC will honor the great jazz legend, Wayne Shorter. esperanza spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington and Leo Genovese will come together to celebrate Shorter with a performance at The Clemente. Following the concert, please join us in the Flamboyán Theater for the premiere of WS, a longer super nova directed by Arthur Jafa. This film chronicles an ongoing and intimately wild conversation between Shorter and esperanza spalding as they collaborate on building a new opera, Iphigenia. Free
River to River Festival Is Back:
Don’t Miss These 5 Acts
Photo courtesy of Damon Davis
As we come out of covid, it’s clear the city’s thriving cultural scene is on its way back — and Lower Manhattan’s leading the way.
In May, the Downtown Alliance teamed up with En Garde Arts and + The Tankto present Downtown Live, a multi-weekend festival stocked with live performances ranging from music to theater to spoken poetry. The revival of Downtown’s cultural scene continues into June, with the return of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival.
The festival, which runs June 10–June 27, joins the explosion of post-vaccine outdoor events and art exhibits that are set to take over the city this summer. Here are five acts you won’t want to miss, and visit lmcc.net/river-to-river-festival for the full schedule.
Opening Concert featuring Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington and Leo Genovese (June 10)
Spalding is a jazz musician who made waves when she beat out Drake and Justin Bieber to win the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011. Since then she’s won three other Grammys and has been labeled the “21st century jazz genius” by NPR.
Processions with Miguel Gutierrez, Okwui Okpokwasili and The Illustrious Blacks
(June 13, 20, 25)
Artist Okwui Okpokwasili is following up her recent piece on the High Line called “On the way, undone” with another processional performance, which means you get to participate in the art. Okpokwasili’s performance will happen at Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City on June 20, followed by processions led by choreographer Gutierrez and musical duo the Illustrious Blacks will also conduct processions on June 13 and June 25.
Kamau Ware, Land of the Blacks (June 10-27)
Black history scholar and co-found of Black Gotham Experience Kamau Ware is writing an original piece on “Land of the Blacks,” 28 Black-owned farmsteads that once covered a swath of Lower Manhattan. It will debut on the River to River website.
Womxn in Windows (June 15-27)
Womxn in Windows is a multi-part video installation installed in Windows across the Seaport District. They’ll focus on the confluence of culture and society in an exploration of the multi-faceted female identity, created by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Mariana Valencia, Futurity (June 25-27)
Choreographer and performer Mariana Valencia brings a 2021 version of Futurity, a dance performance that will transmit the queer stories of elders in Greenwich Village from the 1960s to the present.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The Lower West Side of Manhattan officially has another stunning public space: On Friday morning, the Hudson River Park Trust debuted Little Island, the new park located just off the shoreline, at 13th and West Streets. The park offers more than two acres of gardens, glades, lawns, performance spaces and picnic grounds.
All of this greenery is hoisted above the water by 280 slender concrete columns, driven hundreds of feet down into the riverbed, and supporting 132 flower-shaped masonry “tulips”—pods that appear to be separate platforms from outside Little Island, but form a continuous, undulating surface when seen from the inside. Each of these structural bulbs is a different size, shape, and elevation.
The Battery Park City Authority asks that the public not interact with or feed the urban wildlife in the neighborhood’s parks and green spaces, and at the waterfront.
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.