The fight for survival continues for one of the city’s oldest African burial grounds now that a Request for Evaluation was submitted to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The Elmhurst Histories and Cemeteries Preservations Society submitted the request Oct. 1 as a step toward keeping the piece of local and national history from being buried underneath a 55-foot-tall residential building. On Sept. 13, the developing company Song Liu filed permits to develop the five story structure at 47-11 90th St., according to reports from the city Department of Buildings. If construction were to take place, a vital part of American history could be wiped off the map.
In 1828, St. Mark’s American Methodist Episcopal Church was founded — on the site of the proposed building — one year after enslaved people were emancipated in New York City 35 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. Newly Freed African-Americans quickly established the congregation which eventually evolved and relocated three times. The church still remains active today as the St. Mark’s A.M.E Church in North Corona, which is still responsible for the 310 bodies still believed to be resting in the lot hugged by highways.
Construction can only take place when there has been an agreement struck between Song Liu and St. Mark’s AME Church of Corona, according to Giampino. In order for Song Liu to touch the earth, the remains must be properly removed and reburied. St. Mark’s AME Church did not respond to request for comment about the matter.
“It’s a very sad story,” said James McMenamin, vice president of the Elmhurst Histories and Cemeteries Preservation Society.
In 1928, after St. Marks AME had to move to new location, the New York City refused to grant the church permission to remove the remains to a new location. The burial ground was then mostly forgotten and even written off of city maps, according to Giampino.
“The Pepsi Cola sign gets landmarked and $1.9 million (is allocated) to save and restore the house next door to Louis Armstrong,” said McMenamin. “In the meantime we have been trying to save this structure in Elmhurst and we have gotten zip.”
Yep, that about sums it up.