Public Hearing Set: What to do with the bodies? Followup on NYC Plans to Rebury Human Remains Unearthed in Washington Square Park

Public Hearing Set: What to do with the bodies? Followup on NYC Plans to Rebury Human Remains Unearthed in Washington Square Park

(The City calls them “fragments”) — Public Hearing June 5th

Updated

“Remains” Dug up During Redesign Construction

A public hearing will be held June 5th to provide details and solicit input into the New York City Parks Department plans for the “reinterment of fragmentary human remains” back into the ground of Washington Square Park after a Community Board meeting earlier this month left unanswered questions. The “remains” – which exist from the time the park was a potter’s field and cemetery – were unearthed during the park’s recent redesign construction.

At the May 1st Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting where the reburial was on the agenda, a Parks Department statement about the agency’s plans was read by agency staffer Jamal Patterson. Questions asked by the committee and community members were outside the scope of information Patterson was provided by the Parks Department so a new meeting was scheduled.

Washington Square Park Blog broke the story in late August 2018 that the city was planning to reinter “human remains” dug up during the park’s construction.

20,000 Bodies are Buried Beneath the Park; Once a Potter’s Field and Cemetery

While it is not clear exactly what is set to be reintered, as previously reported at Washington Square Park Blog, a location was revealed: Washington Square South and Sullivan Street. It will be marked with an “engraved granite paver” outlining the park’s history within “an existing planting bed.”

The upcoming June 5th meeting – a “do-over” in a sense – is scheduled as a public hearing (technically, the last meeting was too). Hopefully, the Parks Department will come with a full-on presentation this time. (The agency should have presented one at the first meeting – not Patterson’s fault by any means, the Parks Department higher ups surely knew that more information was required, questions would be asked.)

At meetings addressing the Bloomberg Administration’s controversial redesign plans for Washington Square Park – before construction started – Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro assured community members that the city would not dig deeper than three feet once work began. Advocates were worried about exactly this issue – that the skeletons and bodies buried beneath the park would be disturbed. It was later learned construction workers dug as deep as six feet 7 to 11 feet.

The reinterment plans are currently before the Landmarks Preservation Commission which is also writing the text of the plaque to identify the location. Ultimately, according to LPC, the Public Design Commission – which has “binding jurisdiction” – signs off on the plans.

Community Board 2 Parks/Waterfront Committee Public Hearing:

Wednesday, June 5th, 6:30 p.m.

NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 401 (right off Washington Square East)
Accessible entrance is located at 31 Washington Place.

Rich Caccappolo, CB2, left, Jamal Patterson, right, meeting early May

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Where Will the Bones go? Reburial of Human Remains Dug up During Washington Square Park Redesign Work, (Some) Plans Revealed May 8, 2019