Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. National Parks in New York City? Yes! There are 11 parks with a total of 23 different sites you can visit in all five boroughs and parts of New Jersey.
If you go to the area between Stanton and Rivington along Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side, you’ll find basketball courts and a playground, usually filled with children laughing and playing in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. There is no sign that this used to be one of the only places in the city for African-Americans to be buried between 1795 and 1843. Scholars often call this area New York’s second African Burial Ground. The land was originally purchased by the city to develop low-cost housing, but the plan never came to be and the park was developed in 1934.
The M’Finda Kalunga Garden is a tranquil oasis that serves as the only memorial of the African burial ground that once occupied the land. The name M’Finda Kalunga mean “garden at the edge of the other side of the world” in the African language of Kikongo. In 1794, the Common Council of New York City received a petition from the African Society “to procure a place for the internment of People of Colour.” The land that was granted was near the dilapidated ruin of James Delancey’s mansion in what was deemed “a proper place.”
St. Philip's Church, a mission of Trinity Church, took charge of the site, but by July 1835, the cemetery was full after 40 years of use, and new laws would make it illegal to bury others. In 1853, the Chrystie Street Burial Ground closed forever. The human remains were disinterred and sent to Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. The lush garden serves as a living memorial to those African New Yorkers who are no longer with us.