Oct. 30, 2023 By Rachel Butler
Queens Council Member Sandra Ung joined community leaders, elected officials and the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy on Saturday, Oct. 28, for the renaming of the intersection of 164th Street and 46th Avenue in Flushing, which is now known as “Olde Towne Burial Ground Lane.”
“Olde Towne Burial Ground Lane will forever stand as a testament to our commitment to acknowledging the past and ensuring that the memory of those who rest here is never forgotten,” said Ung. “This is more than just a change in signage, it is a powerful declaration of our city’s values and will hopefully help future generations understand the importance of recognizing and rectifying injustices. We aren’t just renaming a street, we are rewriting a narrative.”
The area was bought by the town of Flushing in 1840 and used as a pauper’s burial ground. Approximately 1,000 people, mostly of African American or Native American descent were buried there over the years. The last burial at the site took place in 1898, which was the same year that New York City was consolidated into five boroughs. The site remained as it was for a number of years until it was transferred to the Parks Department in 1914 and eventually a playground was built over it in 1936.
Despite news articles at the time quoting people saying there were bones being pulled from the ground, bodies were never removed. The playground remained in use until the 1990s, when the late Mandingo Osceola Tshaka advocated on behalf of the burial ground to be included in the State and National Registers of Historic Places and prompted archaeological studies.
The playground was transformed into a memorial space in 2006 and in 2010 the space was officially renamed Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground.
In 2021, a central memorial was dedicated and it includes the names of 320 people who are known to have been interred there.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz were among the officials on hand for the Oct. 28 celebration.
“For far too long, the hundreds of people who are buried in this sacred ground had not been given the recognition or respect they deserved. But with the recently dedicated memorial and now with today’s street co-naming, their legacies are finally being honored and remembered in the way they should have always been,” Richards said. Thank you to Council Member Ung for her leadership and the relentless advocacy of all those community leaders who have pushed for the proper memorialization of the souls buried here.”
Maureen Regan, who co-chairs the Conservancy with Robbie Garrison said the street co-naming “may not be significant given the turmoil in the world, but it’s a step forward from past injustices.”
“With due respect to this site, it’s not only righting wrongs, but an honor today to recognize its importance, to know where it came from, and what a group of people can do,” Regan said. “It is deservedly celebrated with this naming as Olde Towne Burial Ground Lane.”