(An open letter to Comptroller John Liu)
As the co-chairman of the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy, I am writing to ask for your assistance with a very crucial issue facing the 19th-century cemetery.
As you are aware, the conservancy has been advocating for years that the four headstones destroyed by the City of New York in the 1930s be replaced. We would also like to see recognition in the form of a permanent monument to honor all the others interred at this site, altogether about 1,000 souls, all well-documented.
Borough President Helen Marshall gave $100,000 to replace the headstones and honor the other deceased. But after various meetings with her and representatives from the Parks Department, Community Board 7 and the New York City Design Commission, we have not made any progress toward achieving these goals, and Parks dismisses any ideas we have.
As we look at city history, the prevailing attitude has been that people of color did not count, even when it came to preserving and respecting their burial grounds. Resting places for African Americans in Manhattan, for example, continuously shifted northward over time. My people were pushed from what is now Sarah Roosevelt Park to Washington Square to Bryant Park to Central Park Seneca Village. As the land was developed, graves were frequently uncovered and desecrated, paved over or built over. This was atrocious.
The dead must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground must be identifiable as the cemetery that it is.
We implore you to help us honor those who are buried at this sacred site. Thank you for your anticipated response and assistance on the issue.