The indigent, unknown and disenfranchised were buried in Washington Square, when the park was a potter’s field from 1797 to 1825. Yellow fever in the early 1800s pushed the graveyard’s population to as high as 20,000.
City told to stop digging up graves in park rehab
Their bones began to turn up two weeks ago, as work started on the city’s controversial renovation of the park. First, human and animal remains were found “mixed in with nails and other construction debris,” said Parks Dept. spokesperson Jama Adams, who pointed to prior construction in the park. Digging 15 “test spots,” archaeologists uncovered 70 to 80 bones in one spot alone; eventually four intact burials were found, though the Villager newspaper put the number of skeletons at seven. “None of these will be disturbed,” Adams said. “Work is ongoing.”
The news of the dead came just after the renovation of the park lurched forward, with the fountain’s dismantling and the pulling up of eight trees around the central plaza. Machines were actively removing ground.
“I don’t take the word ‘desecration’ lightly, but that is what is happening here,” said the Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, minister at the Judson Church, who will lead a protest tonight to call on the Bloomberg administration to halt construction and repair the park instead. “They should stop disturbing the dead,” said Schaper. “The city is disrespecting the community again.”
Why exactly are we doing this again? Because the fountain is in the wrong place and we have millions to burn, is that it?