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Flushing’s Martins Field gets $571K from Marshall

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This money, which came from her discretionary budget, will be in addition to the $2.7 million that City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) already set aside from the City Council budget for the project.

The project, which was already fully funded, will be boosted by Marshall's contribution, a spokeswoman from the Parks Department said.

"What's new here is the borough president has put a very real and very substantial investment into our community and the creation of the Martins Field memorial park," Liu said after learning of Marshall's contribution.

How Martins Field should be reconstructed has been a question dividing the community for as long as activists have known about the burial ground. About a decade ago, descendants of the blacks and American Indians buried at Martins Field learned that the land was hallowed ground and began campaigning for a memorial to be built on the site.

It was not until March that the city Department of Parks and Recreation presented a design for the field that included both a memorial and a playground, accommodating the visions of both the descendant community and neighbors who live around the park on 46th Avenue between 164th and 165th streets.

A groundbreaking was expected in September, Liu said.

Mandingo Tshaka, a black activist from Bayside who has been vocal in defending the hallowed ground for years, said he believes Marshall, who is also black, contributed the money in order to honor her descendants.

"She's an African-American woman, and she understands the historic significance of it. She participated at the site when the African burial remains were brought there this past fall," he said.

In October, the remains of some of New York's first African ancestors were reburied in Martins Field after being discovered in Lower Manhattan and studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

"She understands the significance that none of our burial sites within the five boroughs, there's not one visible, none of them are being honored," said Tshaka, who identifies with both his Matinecock American Indian and black ancestry.

In the latest draft of the design, shown to descendants and residents in March, the memorial park will include trees, pathways, an earth mound and a sun clock. A concrete floor with a commemorative design will also be installed in the existing wading pool, the landscape architect, Steve Whitesell, said at the March meeting.

Entrances were mapped out on 46th Avenue at 164th and 165th streets, and there were also provisions for a mid-block entrance on 165th Street and a service entrance on 164th.

Tshaka, who has mentioned before that he would like to see an elaborate gate for the park, said he hopes Marshall's money will be used for that.

"That site can be quite beautiful," he said. "I've always wanted an elegant entrance gate."

Marshall's office did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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