Van Cortlandt Park


Monday, June 21, 2021
No. 56

Kingsbridge Burial Ground renamed ‘Enslaved African and Kingsbridge Burial Grounds’

Mill Pond renamed ‘Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond’

On Saturday, NYC Parks joined Van Cortlandt Park Administrator and Alliance Executive Director Stephanie Ehrlich, U.S. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat, NYS Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, City Councilman Eric Dinowitz, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, King Jorde Cultural Projects Consultant Peggy King Jorde, Bronx Tourism Council Executive Director Olga Luz Tirado, and members of the community to announce the re/naming of two features in Van Cortlandt Park at an event hosted by Van Cortlandt Park Alliance and the Enslaved People Project Task Force Steering Committee.

In honor of the African burial ground, located within the previously named Kingsbridge Burial Ground, a new sign bearing the words ‘Enslaved African and Kingsbridge Burial Grounds’ and a historical sign commemorating the site are to be installed. Additionally, the lake within the park has been renamed ‘Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond’ to honor Piero the Miller, an enslaved African who milled grain on this site, and his wife, Hester.

"Van Cortlandt Park is a place for all people, and with these namings, we take one step closer to honoring the history and legacy of the Black and Indigenous experience in New York City," said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. "I am proud to have worked with the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance and the Enslaved People Project Task Force Steering Committee on this project, and hope that these new names will foster respect, and encourage reflection for generations of New Yorkers to come."

“In 2020, set against the backdrop of a national reckoning on racial injustice, as well as a global pandemic, local community members Jacki Fischer and DePrator -- two fierce women lobbied to close a park path to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. That path is the Enslaved African Burial Ground we consecrate today. While many people have long felt this was sacred space, Jacki and DePrator’s passion and determination led the way to ensure the formal acknowledgement we are sharing together this morning. And while today’s ceremony is indeed a momentous occasion, the consecration of this holy ground was a long time coming. It has been a great honor to be a part of the Enslaved People Project Task Force Steering Committee, working on this first step of many, bringing the true history of Van Cortlandt Park’s history of slavery to light,” said Stephanie Ehrlich, Van Cortlandt Park Administrator & Van Cortlandt Park Alliance Executive Director.

“As a proud member of the Enslaved People Project Task Force Steering Committee, I’m thrilled by this Juneteenth event highlighting the consecration of the African Burial Ground representing the success of our combined efforts as a beginning of the work to be done,” said Jacki Fischer, Community Member.

“Van Cortlandt House Museum and The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York have been and continue to be honored to work with the other organizations and community partners for the Enslaved People Project. The public acknowledgement of the Enslaved African Burial Ground in Van Cortlandt Park is one of what we hope will be many initiatives as we continue to re-frame a more authentic and inclusive history of the Museum, the Van Cortlandt family, and the Park,” said Laura Carpenter-Myers, Director, Van Cortlandt House Museum.

"It is good to see public recognition for the lives and contributions of enslaved African and Native American people that did so much to shape the landscape of today's park," said Nick Dembowski, President, Kingsbridge Historical Society.

The Burial Ground
The area adjacent to the Kingsbridge Burial Ground has been identified as a possible burial site
of enslaved African Americans who lived and worked on the Van Cortlandt plantation and were responsible for most of its functions. The information gathered is inconclusive, but it is likely that this site is the location where enslaved people were interred. The space will now be honored with a dedicated sign and detailed historical sign.

The Lake
The lake, historically known as the Mill Pond, has been renamed ‘Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond’ in honor of Piero the Miller and his wife Hester, a domestic servant. Piero was particularly well known in the area for his expertise as a miller of grain. It is surmised that Piero was quite good at his job, which may be why he was allowed to keep his family intact, his wife Hester and their son Peter living with him on the plantation.

NYC Parks is committed to supporting the fight to end systemic racism locally, nationally, and throughout the world. In June 2020, the agency declared solidarity with the Black community when it created Juneteenth Grove in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park. In addition, on Black Solidarity Day 2020, Parks also announced the first tranche of namings for prominent Black Americans in an effort to foster effective and equitable changes within the City’s parks system. On June 16, 2021, Parks officially re/named 16 additional park spaces in honor of the Black experience in New York City, including the renaming of Mullaly Park and Recreation Center in the Bronx in honor of the late Rev. T. Wendell Foster, the first black representative from the Bronx on the New York City Council.

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

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