A group of Harlem activists say they are concerned that an African burial ground is being desecrated by city agencies as they move ahead with construction projects near the site. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Hidden underneath the bus depot on East 126th Street is the final resting place for New Yorkers like Jane Anthony, Henry B. Edwards and Eliza Johnson. They were enslaved Africans who were buried there in the mid 17th century just off Harlem River Drive. It's an area that is quickly becoming known as the city's 'other' African burial ground in Harlem. And now there's an emerging movement to preserve and protect the cemetery that had been abandoned.
"The presence of the early Africans and their contributions to what became this city, this state, this country is woefully neglected," said Eric V. Tait, Jr. of the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force.
The burial ground came to light in 2008 when the Department of Transportation started expanding the Willis Avenue Bridge. The property, which sits at the foot of the burial ground, is where construction workers allegedly found human body parts while digging.
The cemetery is owned by Elmendorf Reformed Church, which is the oldest sanctuary in Harlem.
"They emphasized one thing. That was 'We're going to be very respectful of the bones.' And they repeated, 'We're going to be very respectful of the bones.' Well that unnerved us because if they said that they must have found something," said Reverend Patricia Singletary of Elmendorf Reformed Church.