Action on a Queens Burial Ground?

(Photo by Mark Hallum via Times Ledger)

Old Towne Burial Ground, which served as a burial site for more than 1,000 African-Americans and Native Americans in the 1800s, may finally get some attention and city dollars for restoration and a memorial, following an exchange recently between neighborhood residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Queens Parks commissioner, Gina Martinez reports in Times Ledger.

The burial ground is at 45th Avenue and 165th Street and has been suffering from neglect, says Flushing resident Beverly Riley, who notes that dog walkers make use of the area. The topic came up at a recent town hall meeting that the mayor held in Flushing.

Mandingo Tshaka, a Bayside activist and founder of the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy, has been fighting for official recognition for the cemetery for over 10 years. Tshaka and former Councilman John Lui (D-Flushing) worked to preserve the site, and in 2004, the late Borough President Helen Marshall and Lui allocated $2.667 million in funding for improvements, which included a recreated historic wall engraved with the names from the only four headstones remaining there from 1919. New trees and shrubs were planted along with a newly installed toddler’s playground. In 2006, the site was reclaimed and reopened by the city Parks Department and the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy.

Riley told the mayor that residents have been trying for the last 10 years to get the cemetery restored so that it could have the respect and dignity it deserves in the community. But she said they have not been able to use $100,000 in funds that was allocated to them by Marshall.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dotty Lewandowski conceded that while there was a marker and signage at the site, “more could be done.” Go to Times Ledger to read how the mayor challenged Lewandowski as to why that hadn’t happened and learn the commissioner’s response. Find out, too, how the mayor proposed to “do the right thing.”

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