Honoring Those Buried At Martin's Field
Seventy years ago, amid the flurry of construction overseen by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, a playground was built at Martin's Field in Flushing, Queens. It was not uncommon for playgrounds to be built that year as it was during the Federal Works Progress Administration era of expansion. However, this playground was built atop a 19th century burial ground, containing the remains of between 500-1,000 souls.
Now that Parks is in another significant era of expansion, it is fitting to appropriately honor the memory of those laid to rest at Martin's Field. Thanks to a $2.7 million reconstruction, a new playground was built while preserving a landscaped section as a memorial honoring the dead. A ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Saturday, November 18.
The reconstruction was funded by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and City Council Member John Liu. The two-phase project involved the reconstruction of the playground, as well as the landscaped areas to serve as a reflective memorial area. Following surveys by an archeological team, the new playground was relocated and placed on a sill system foundation so as to not disturb the land. The playground features new play equipment for young children, as well as new benches, new irrigation and drainage, paving, and extensive greening. The rolling hills of the burial site now have a memorial tablet and beautiful landscaping to honor those laid to rest.
The tablet reads:
Between 1840 and 1898,
500 to 1000 people, primarily
African Americans, Native Americans,
and victims of four major epidemics in
1840, 1844, 1857 and 1867 were buried
on this site. The park was renovated
and this tablet installed to
“The reconstruction of Martin’s Field allows both the needs of the surrounding community and the site’s history to be met,” said Queens Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “The peaceful, rolling hills serve as a place to reflect and honor those who were buried there generations ago, while the new playground will be a place for the next generation to play and grow.”
“Martin’s Field is the only African American and Native American burial ground that remains in any of the five boroughs,” said community advocate Mandingo Osceola Tshaka, who extensively studied the site and has been instrumental in creating a memorial there. “While I always feel there is more we can do memorialize those who are buried here, Parks is really stepping up and doing the right thing by recognizing the site’s history and those who rest here.”
The upgrades to Martin’s Field do not stand alone in the borough of Queens. Over the past five years, Parks & Recreation has spent more than $157 million for Queens park improvements. Currently, Parks is in the midst of a major initiative to improve parks throughout the borough, with 33 projects costing $72 million under construction, and another 88 projects costing $67 million currently in design or procurement.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
“Here’s to the confusion of our enemies.”
(1915 – 1998)