Conference House Park Archaeological Site – 298 Satterlee Street
ITEM PROPOSED FOR PUBLIC HEARING
An approximately 20-acre site within Conference House Park that is associated with over 8,000 years of occupation by Native American people and contains important archaeological resources.
The Historic Districts Council enthusiastically supports the proposed designation of the Conference House Archaeological Site as an Individual Landmark. While extant structures associated with the colonial and white occupation of the site have long enjoyed the protections of landmark status, preserving the land that is the park and the treasures that lie beneath this hallowed ground is overdue. In addition to the gesture of recognition and acknowledgment of the presence and role of Native American populations in New York City, this designation will also trigger LPC review of all projects at the park and bestow a new, regulatory binding authority of the agency over the resources.
It is the first designation in New York City landmarks history to specifically recognize generations of Native American people. Unfortunately, many sites of pre-contact have been lost or developed in the United States. This strategic location, nestled between the Arthur Kill tidal strait and the Raritan Bay at the southernmost point of New York State is a veritable palimpsest of 8000 years—over 300 generations—of Native American history. There are still human remains in the aptly named Burial Ridge section of the site.
We look forward to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s forthcoming designation report as an important update and contribution in the scholarship of the site, which has not been formally documented in a public facing paper since the National Register Nomination of the Ward’s Point Conservation Area in 1984. A fresh, new contextualization of the documentation and analysis regarding the archaeological site is necessary to reflect the societal and cultural shift toward inclusivity, hidden histories, intangible histories, cultural landscapes, and the stories of all marginalized peoples, and in this case, the victims of genocide.
This designation is the second archaeological landmark designation, the other being the African Burial Ground and the Commons Historic District in Lower Manhattan. It would be remiss to not acknowledge the presence of another important cultural site—the African Burial Ground—in Elmhurst, Queens. The small plot of land at 47-11 90th Street has survived over three centuries as a touchstone to one of the earliest freed African-American communities in the region. Founded one year after emancipation in 1828, newly freed African-Americans swiftly established a congregation, the United African Society (later known as the African Methodist Episcopal Church), on the site of the burial ground. The African-American descendant congregation is still active, and this plot of land where their roots began–and which still contains over 300 never-disturbed burials—persists, barely touched, in an ever-changing city.
We urge the Commission to schedule a vote for Conference House Park as soon as possible and for Commissioners to please consider the Elmhurst African Burial Ground as well.