20,000 Bodies Lie Under Washington Square Park – Bones to be Returned to the Earth
The New York City Parks Department has at last put together a plan to acknowledge Washington Square Park’s history as a potter’s field and cemetery and return bones excavated during redesign construction (2007-2014+) back into the park.
At a Community Board meeting last week, a representative for the agency revealed that the “fragmentary human remains” would be reintered “within an existing planting bed off the entrance path at Sullivan Street and Washington Square South.”
Jamal Patterson from the Parks Department read a statement to C.B.2 and the public. Patterson stated that there would be an “engraved granite paver” marking the placement of the remains, outlining the park’s history. The text is being written by the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s archaeological department.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) told Washington Square Park Blog: “NYC Parks recently submitted an application to LPC for review of the reinterment of remains uncovered during the reconstruction of Washington Square Park, a project approved by the Commission at a public hearing in 2009. As part of its application, Parks committed to redesigning to avoid intact burials, and that they would work with LPC staff on the implementation of the project and ensure any remains found would be appropriately addressed. LPC staff is currently reviewing the latest application and will issue an Advisory Report to the Public Design Commission, which has binding jurisdiction in this case.”
The city Parks Department shed additional light on the topic when contacted. A department spokesperson stated that the remains will be excavated 5′ below grade and “will be placed in a wood box and interred directly in the ground.”
The timeline at the moment is unknown.
Remember those skeletons and bones they dug up in the park?
The fact that the city was planning to reinter “human remains” dug up during the park’s construction was first revealed at Washington Square Park Blog in August 2018.
In cryptic public statements over the years, the Parks Department has stated that bodies and skeletons dug up during redesign construction – from the park’s time as a potter’s field and cemetery (1797 to early 1800s) – would not be “disturbed”; the agency is also on record stating some uncovered bones would be removed and “reburied respectfully.”
Previously, this site attempted to find out where these “human remains” unearthed were being kept. A source told our site that the remains are being “housed with the archaeologists.”
Since the Parks Department statement at the May 1st meeting was pretty bare bones, forgive the pun, the Community Board has arranged for further vetting on this at the next Parks Committee meeting in early June.
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For more history on this, see:
Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:
“Human Remains” Unearthed During Washington Square Construction Will be Returned, Reinterred in Park August 28, 2018 – Story broken by WSP Blog