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Historic African Burial Ground to Become Housing, City Says

By Dartunorro Clark | September 8, 2016 4:05pm
 The city is looking for public input on the development of a former African burial ground that is slated to become a memorial and affordable housing. 
The city is looking for public input on the development of a former African burial ground that is slated to become a memorial and affordable housing. 
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DNAinfo/Gabriela Resto-Montero

HARLEM — A former bus depot built on an historic African burial ground is being redeveloped in East Harlem.

The city's Economic Development Corporation will hold a public meeting on Sept. 27 where residents will have the opportunity to work on the planning process for the former East 126th Street MTA Bus Depot. 

The site was an African burial ground for enslaved and free Africans. It is planned to become a mixed-use and mixed-income affordable housing development, according to a release from the agency.

It will also hold a memorial.

“The project will honor the history of the site and meet the needs of the community through a new memorial,” the agency said.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who co-chairs the project's committee and represents East Harlem, said the development will create “affordable housing, local jobs and a proper memorial for the burial ground.”

The burial ground dates back to 1660 when the village of New Harlem was incorporated and the Low Dutch Reformed Church of Harlem was built at the corner of First Avenue and 126th Street, according to the burial ground’s committee.

A portion of the property — a one-quarter acre lot — was set aside as a segregated cemetery, called the Negro Burying or Harlem African Burial Ground, which was used from the mid-17th to the mid-19th century, according to the group.

The site has also housed an amusement park, casino and a film studio throughout its history, according to the agency.

In 2010, the MTA agreed to halt plans to replace the depot after community outcry, DNAinfo New York previously reported.

The agency is currently in the process of vacating the bus depot and returning the site to the city, officials said.

The public scoping meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Silberman School of Social Work Building, at 2180 Third Avenue, in the first floor conference room (115AB).