Plans for a memorial at the site of an ancient African burial ground in Flatbush look one step closer to fruition after local Councilmember Mathieu Eugene signaled his support this week and allocated $4 million towards construction.

Eugene had previously backed plans to convert the site at 2286 Church Ave into affordable housing with around 100 affordable apartments and a youth community facility. The lot, at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Church Avenue, has been vacant since 2015 and was once the site of the Flatbush District No. 1 School, P.S. 90 and the Beth Rivkah Institute.

The plans were met with immediate community opposition and the formation of the Flatbush African Burial Ground Coalition, which has fought for the land to be recognized and protected for its history.

In a statement, Eugene said that while he was “a longtime advocate for providing truly affordable housing and positive opportunities for young people in the community,” he supported what the community was calling for in having only an open space memorial at the site without the apartment or community center development.

“We have the moral obligation to pay tribute to our ancestors and acknowledge the challenges they faced as they built this country,” Eugene said.

“As a member of the immigrant community, I have spent my lifetime learning about the experiences and struggles of those who paved the way for us, and I understand the need to have their stories preserved for future generations.”

He added that he believed the community deserved a project “that will respect and honor the memory and legacy of our ancestors while fulfilling the needs of the community,” and said he had allocated $4 million to this project from his Fiscal Year 2022 Capital Budget.

Eugene’s support for the memorial follows that of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who also initially supported plans for the housing development.

In October, Adams signaled his support to keep the as an open space with a memorial, saying:

“As we continue the fight to preserve our history and recognize the significant role enslaved Africans played in shaping it, I cannot support developing this sacred site in Flatbush, an area with a rich history stretching back centuries.”

In his letter, Adams recommended that either Parks Department or the Economic Development Corporation should take over management of the site from HPD.

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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