Proposal for a NYC Historic & Cultural Markers Program

Proposal for a NYC Historic & Cultural Markers Program

Council Members Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo, and Jimmy Van Bramer wrote this letter to the Co-Chairs of the NYC Mayoral Advisory Commission on Monuments (NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker). We urge them -- in addition to their assigned task of addressing "symbols of hate" -- to consider establishing a new NYC Historic & Cultural Markers Program.

We believe that it is important to do more as a city to recognize and commemorate a far more inclusive set of historic, communities, struggles, and sites -- including many sites that have gone unrecognized for far too long -- that shape our extraordinary & complex city. Such sites might include:

  • the 1863 Draft Riots, the largest riot in American history, in which hundreds of New Yorkers were killed
  • the first Planned Parenthood clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, built in 1917
  • the 1917 NAACP silent march of 10,000 African-Americans down Fifth Avenue
  • the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911
  • stops on the Underground Railroad
  • and many more

A formal NYC Historic and Cultural Marker Program would integrate physical markers into NYC’s streetscape and accompany them with online, interactive materials to unearth our rich, diverse and complex histories, and to tell important stories that shape the city we live in today. It could recognize community leaders, activists, and events that have advanced civil and human rights. It could tell untold and forgotten stories of New Yorkers, especially those who were marginalized or oppressed. It could reinforce our city’s values of inclusion, civil rights, and community empowerment ... and be honest about many, many times in our history when NYC has not been characterized by those values.  

Read our full letter here.

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