At a virtual meeting yesterday afternoon, the Landmarks Preservation Commission castigated a Parks Department proposal to move and shrink Fort Greene Park’s neglected Spanish Memorial Plaque.
Presented as a gift from King Juan Carlos of Spain in 1976 to commemorate the Spanish martyrs who died fighting for the United States, the plaque, according to the Parks Department, was hastily placed on the west side of the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, and contains grammatical and spelling errors.
It was removed from that spot in the 1980s after vandalism and the weather began to damage the plaque, according to a story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, but the original base remains. The plaque can be currently viewed inside the Fort Greene Park Visitor Center.
The proposal calls for a new plaque, smaller in size with new text. It will be placed on a boulder at the eastern side of the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, on a path near the visitor center. The original base will be removed.
The Consulate of Spain in New York has looked over the proposal, a Parks Department representative said, and fully supports the new plaque and change in scenery. (Earlier this week, the Parks Department revealed updated plans for a broader renovation of the park. That plan is unrelated to the plaque.)
Both commissioners and the four who provided testimony agreed that the plan has major flaws. To have the plaque “cast aside on a boulder seems a little demeaning,” said Commissioner Fred Bland. The original, even with its flaws, “says more to us than a little thing in the park.”
Some offered more blunt opinions. “This thing is going to become a seat,” said Commissioner Michael Devonshire. “This reminds me of suburban rock next to the driveway with the house number on it,” said Commissioner John Gustafsson.
All agreed that the new memorial should be just as substantial, if not more, than the original, suggesting a more formal approach to the design.
But their comments are only suggestions and the Parks Department has the ultimate say. The LPC takes an advisory role in such matters because the park is located in the Fort Greene Historic District. They will compile a report with their comments, LPC Chair Sarah Carroll said, which will be passed on to the Public Design Commission.
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