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General Slocum Sign in Astoria Park to Be Replaced After Vandalism

By Jeanmarie Evelly | September 29, 2015 4:41pm
 An historical sign about the General Slocum Disaster in Astoria Park, after it was vandalized.
An historical sign about the General Slocum Disaster in Astoria Park, after it was vandalized.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — An historical sign in Astoria Park that commemorates the General Slocum Disaster is being replaced after it was heavily vandalized, according to the Parks Department.

The sign, which was located on Shore Boulevard near the Hell Gate Bridge, describes how the General Slocum steamboat caught fire off the park's shoreline in 1904, killing more than a thousand people — what the Parks Department says was the highest death toll of a disaster in the city before 9/11.

The sign was taken down last month after someone vandalized it, tagging it with what appeared to be a marker or paint. It will be replaced with a new sign since workers were unable to remove the markings, according to Parks Department Spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.

There's no set date yet for when the new sign will be installed, she said. It will be similar to the old one in its wording but will have an updated design.

The original sign was put up in 2004 as part of the Parks Department's historical signs project and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the General Slocum Disaster, according to Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, which helped have it installed.

"It told a story about a very important event of our community's history," he said.

According to the Parks Department, more than 1,300 people boarded the ship on the morning of June 15, 1904 to head to Long Island for a church picnic. The boat caught fire on the East River, causing many onboard to jump into the water near Hell Gate, a stretch of river known for being one of the city's most turbulent.

"That is probably one of the most dangerous parts of the entire harbor," Singleton said.

The disaster killed 1,021 people, many of them German immigrants from the Lower East Side, according to the Parks Department. A fountain in Tompkins Square Park also serves as a memorial to the victims.