This op-ed was written in response to the article “Location of Historical Yorktown Monument Debated."
I am a board trustee of the Yorktown Historical Society and have lived in Yorktown since 1955. At this time, I and a majority of the Yorktown Historical Society board members want to share with you our dismay and opposition regarding the decision made by the town supervisor and Town Board members to relocate the Pines Bridge Monument from its original approved and advertised site in Downing Park to Railroad Park.
This is a shared venture with the Pines Bridge Monument Committee to erect a monument commemorating the death of Col. Christopher Greene, the African-American, Native American, and Continental soldiers on the 1st Rhode Island Regiment who died on May 14, 1781, defending the Pines Bridge Crossing at the Croton River. This event, one of many that occurred in Yorktown, is a significant part of our heritage.
Our dismay at not being consulted nor advised of this radical move is difficult to comprehend.
I want to share my reasons why I believe this area of town (Railroad Park) is not historically suited for the monument:
1) The site is too commercial with an auto body repair shop, auto tech shop, bus garage, car wash, UPS Center, etc.
2) There are no restroom facilities and parking could be a big problem when and if the area is developed.
3) Most important is the particular and obvious fact that if any monument should be considered in a courtyard setting, it should be one that reflects and commemorates the railroad history of the area. It is close to the Patriot Park turntable and the railroad station could, with grant funds, be refurbished and turned into a visitor’s center open for tours. Additionally, with funding help from Westchester County, restrooms could be built adjacent to the Patriot Park turntable area for bike trail users.
Listed below are my reasons for keeping this noble and unique monument at Downing Park:
1) It is a suitable pastoral site with direct historic Revolutionary War connections.
2) It was the original town center before the advent of the railroad.
3) It is across the road from the historic First Presbyterian Church, site of once a Revolutionary War camp and meeting site for the town Committee of Safety and Store House for guns and munitions. The church was attacked twice by the British and burned during their second attack. Additionally, the monument faces the church yard where Col. Greene and Major Ebenezer Flagg are buried, as well as the monuments commemorating the soldiers killed while defending the bridge.
4) It has restrooms and abuts FDR Park, where there are plaques relating to French Gen. Rochambeau’s encampment in 1781 and 1782 during the Revolutionary War.
The history this memorial represents is an important and integral part of Yorktown’s history and deserves to be placed in a geographic and culturally historic setting.
I ask the supervisor and the Town Board members to reflect on the above information and let common sense prevail as we continue our ongoing efforts to build a memorial to honor all who fell within our borders and paved the way for the many freedoms we enjoy today.
As the Yorktown Historical Society was a large part of the energy that drove the project, it was upsetting not to be part of this decision to relocate the monument to Railroad Park, as permission had been originally granted by the Parks and Recreation Commission for its location in Downing Park. The site was selected due to its geographical and historical significance.
It would appear there is a lack of transparency relating to this relocation project. Was there a plan designed by a qualified engineer or landscape architect; were proper permits acquired; could there be a conflict of interest or a question of ethics if the foundation donated by a Town Board member at little or no cost if only, as rumored, the monument was placed at Railroad Park?
In closing, with history in mind, I have suggested to our supervisor and Town Board members that they consider using the pedestal to house a monument to honor the families who sold or donated land for the railroad depot area or perhaps a statue depicting a “gandy dancer,” ticket master, train engineer, fireman or conductor. I believe Railroad Park would be a fitting and proper historical site for such a monument, instead of a Revolutionary War monument that does not have one iota of history that connects it to that area.
With due respect, if there are any readers who agree with this information, please share it with the proper officials.
One last thing I have to share is the following statement I read 10 years ago: “It takes a human being to make an error; it takes a humble person to right a wrong.”