City planners are in the early phase of a project to build a small park at Colden and Water streets. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park is expected to one day become the final resting place for approximately 100 sets of African-American remains excavated from under the former Broadway School.
“Finally, we’ll be able to bring them back with this park dedicated to MLK,” said city Councilwoman Genie Abrams at Newburgh City Hall this month.
The park is expected to cover approximately 12,000 square feet, roughly a quarter of an acre, on city-owned hillside overlooking the Newburgh Waterfront. The park design includes terracing and retaining walls that will double as seating.
A bust sculpture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. already located on the property will be moved to a prominent position in the park, city Planner Alexandra Church said. A design is expected to be completed by engineers from The Chazen Companies in the fall, she said.
The design phase of the project will be paid for with $25,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding. “We’ll have to raise the money for building,” said city Business Development Director Deirdre Glenn, possibly through donations or additional CDBG funds.
The park design will set aside space for a columbarium to reinter the remains, currently housed at SUNY New Paltz. Construction at the park site, chosen by Colored Burial Ground Advisory Committee, is expected to be completed sometime next year, said Church.
The African-American burial ground was unearthed at the construction site of the City of Newburgh Courthouse in 2008. Following their discovery, the remains were tested and determined to be those of African Americans from the mid-19th Century.
The remains were eventually sent to SUNY New Paltz for care and study. The Newburgh Colored Burial Ground was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
“Their bones were disrespected for two centuries,” said Abrams, with pipes and other construction materials driven through the burial ground over time. “This is such an important healing process for our city.”
By SHANTAL RILEY