Conservancy works to protect Flushing Burial Ground

Letter to the Editor:

There was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the reclamation, renaming and rededication of the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Nov. 12. The cemetery, where the event took place, is located on 46th Avenue, between 164th Street and 165th Street in Flushing, opposite Flushing Cemetery. The Conservancy for this 19th century cemetery co-sponsored the event with Council member Peter Koo.

During the last 10 years, the Conservancy has worked to ensure the burial ground is maintained, appropriate signage is installed at all of the gates leading into this cemetery and fitting memorial stones are erected at the site to honor the approximately 1,000 souls resting there.

Especially important to the Conservancy is recognition that is due for four of the people interred there — the four people who actually had headstones on site.

Unfortunately, those headstones were removed and destroyed nearly 80 years ago by the city of New York in an act of indifference and intolerance.

Graves were disturbed when a playground and wading pool were built over the cemetery in the 1930s. Bones were dug up during excavations and the remains were treated with great disrespect and dishonor.

Most buried there are Native Americans and African Americans. Many were buried in this cemetery when their lives were taken during the epidemics of the 1800s. A large percentage of the interred are children.

Today, the site is a beautiful, peaceful and meditative area. However, for the Conservancy, there is still much to accomplish, including placement of memorial stones.

The Conservancy will be reviewing New York City Parks and New York City Design Commission plans for memorial stones in January. We are thankful to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and former Borough President Helen Marshall for setting aside funds for the memorial stones.

The recent ceremony at the cemetery was well-attended, with the color guard by Boy Scout Troop 253 and Boy Scout Troop 888. Chief Sonny Little Fox, a Matinecock Tribe leader, gave special Native American blessings to open the ceremony.

Andrew Jackson, retired director of Langston Hughes Library, poured libation and read poetry to honor the departed.

There were praise dancers from Community Baptist Church of Brooklyn and a wonderful members Ed Braunstein and Ron Kim were among the elected officials who were present.

Former city Comptroller John Liu gave the compelling keynote address.

He was a leading force in making sure that the burial ground was recognized and refurbished when he served as a Council member. We also cite the contributions of former Council and Assembly member Julia Harrison.

We thank Queens Community Board 7 as well for their help. We also send a special thank you to PIX 11 TV, which is taking a special interest in the site.

Some descendants of those buried at the cemetery also spoke at the event. Additionally, Queens Historian Jack Eichenbaum and representatives of the Queens Preservation Council and the Auburndale Improvement Association were present at the ceremony.

Also attending was Kenneth Cohen, president of the Northeast Chapter of the NAACP; members of the Queens College Queens Memory Project; and Holly Civic members and supporters.

The ceremony concluded with special prayers and chants from the Buddhist Light and IBPS. It was an amazing event, with some parts broadcast by NY 1.

The Conservancy looks forward to working with the Parks Department, the Design Commission, elected leaders, local residents and others to ensure that those resting at the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground are treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

Mandingo Osceola Tshaka and Robbie Garrison

Co-Chairs, Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy

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