A congressional and military delegation got a rare peak inside the crypt below the Prison Ships Martyrs monument in Fort Greene Park on Monday — and the quick fact-finding mission may lead to long-overdue federal support for a site that Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCulloch called “one of the three most sacred sites in American history.”
Reps. Steve Israel (D–Long Island) and Joe Crowley (D–Queens) were visibly moved during their visit to the sealed crypt, the last resting place of the remains of more than 11,000 people who died on British prison ships during the Revolutionary War.
Both lawmakers, plus a dozen Pentagon officials, crammed into the Guastavino-tiled mausoleum to review more than a dozen bluestone granite tombs, which contain the remains of “America’s first POWs,” according to Ted General of the Society of Old Brooklynites.
Crowley told The Brooklyn Paper that he was concerned that “no one knows about this wonderful memorial.”
He stopped short of vowing to get funding to promote and restore the crypt to its original 1908 glory, but promised to “at least begin the discussion” in Washington.
For now, that was good enough for Ruth Goldstein of the Fort Greene Association, which is organizing an event to mark the monument and crypt’s centennial in November.
“I believe we’ll get some [funding], which is only fitting for a monument that is on the National Register of Historic Places,” she said.
The larger goal is to raise tens of millions of dollars so that the monument has an endowment that will maintain it even when “the park itself goes through rough patches,” she said.