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Congressman Pushes to Bring National Recognition to Brooklyn Park

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It's a good bet that most New Yorkers, and most of the residents of the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, know little about the neighborhood's role in the birth of this country, but national recognition of its ties to the American Revolutionary may soon be on the way. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

Parts of a fort are still visible at Fort Greene Park, which was once a battle staging area during the Revolutionary War. But what many park visitors don't know is that there's a gravesite here for Continental Army soldiers who died on British prison ships.

That may soon change, as the push to make the Prison Ships Martyrs Monument a national monument takes a big step forward.

"It's going to be on the floor of the House of Representatives on Monday," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn. "We're hopeful that we will secure overwhelming support and we can send it on its way to the Senate with a lot of momentum."

Jeffries introduced the bill, which, if passed, will require the National Parks Service to do a study about the historical significance of the site.

The remains of 11,500 prisoners are buried here. At the base of the staircase, you'll find the entrance to the crypt.

"The roof is actually the stairs, the marble stairs, and then the crypt goes underneath and opens into a chamber about 20 by 20, and there are 13 oversized slate coffins in the crypt that hold the remains," said Charles Jarden, chair of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy.

The prisoners who died came not only from the 13 colonies, but also from around the world. A monument was given to the park in 1976 by Spain to memorialize the 123 Spanish fighters entombed here.

"This is an incredibly important historic park," said Ruth Goldstein, founder of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. "The country's largest Revolutionary War burial site, in fact, right in the heart of New York City."

The Fort Greene Park Conservancy led the centennial campaign in 2008 to re-bronze the eternal flame at the top of the monument and restore the surrounding plaza. Now, it hopes that a federal designation can elevate its national significance.

Jeffries said the bill already passed the House Natural Resources Committee and will likely pass the full House.

"That would be a great thing for Brooklyn, for Fort Greene, for all of New York City," he said.

The bill is being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

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