Newburgh City Council approved the resolution for the dedication of the Newburgh Colored Burial Ground Memorial in Downing Park.
At the regular city council meeting on Monday, May 23, Ramona Burton, Dr. Benilda Armstead-Jones, Gabrielle Burton-Hill and Pamela Krizek, who was on Zoom, joined the city council as they went one by one favored the motion.
Once the motion was approved, applause came from the council and other members present in the audience. With this approved motion, the council can now move forward with discussions on design and construction for the site.
During the work session on May 19, the city council received an update from the Planning and Development department that showed the proposed location for burial ground would be located past the pergola at a place called the “top of the circle” at Downing Park.
In attendance for the announcement were Armstead-Jones, Burton-Hill and Krizek who have worked and advocated for this project. “This has been a long process. We’ve searched many sites. I can’t tell you the enthusiasm of our entire committee,” Krizek said.
Armstead-Jones followed with comments of thanks and support for all the city staff for their work on this project, which has been on-going since 2008 and looks forward to the work ahead.
Back in March, Armstead-Jones went before the council in March requesting an update and the city council said that the city council and city executive staff were in search of funding for the project and that this project would require proper planning in order to transport and reintern the remains.
The current city courthouse sits at the corner of Broadway and New York State Route 9W. The courthouse previously served as the Broadway School and records list the year of construction for the school as 1908.
In 2008, construction workers were tasked to do renovation work on the City of Newburgh Courthouse. During the renovation work, human remains of men, women and children were discovered by the workers. The school building was built on top of an African-American burial site that the remains had been buried in.
The human remains were then transported to the State University of New York [SUNY] at New Paltz and remain there to this day. Now, they are one step closer to returning to the city.
Councilmembers shared comments on the resolution going forward. “Definitely in support of this. Congratulations to, to all of you,” said Councilman Anthony Grice.
“The day has come and you found a final resting place,” said Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde. “This is something that should have happened a long time ago.”
“Thank you for your hard work, thank you for your patience,” said Councilman Bob Sklarz.