Down to the wire - Time is short for ‘Martyrs’

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Despite concerns among local residents, the city’s Parks Department remains hopeful that renovation of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park will be completed in time for its Nov. 15 centennial celebration.

“That’s our goal. To have it completed by then,” said Parks Department spokesperson Philip Abramson.

Designed in 1905 and completed in 1908, the monument is a memorial to the 11,000 men, women and children who died in horrid conditions on the British prison ships in Wallabout Bay during the Revolutionary War.

Beneath the stairs of the memorial also lies a crypt containing 15 huge granite caskets filled with the remains of some of these prisoners.

The memorial also houses a tomb with the remains of some of these prisoners.

Abramson said work that still needs to be completed includes lighting the monument and the eternal flame atop it, as well as returning the eagle sculptures and improving the landscaping.

Ruth Goldstein, chair of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy’s Prison Ship Martyrs Monument Centennial Committee, said she has also been assured by the Parks Department that work will be completed on time.

“We are assured that it will be completed, but we are still responding to an unbelievable amount of community concern that it won’t be done in time,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein said the grass was recently cut around the memorial and that workers have seemed to be doing testing on and off with the lighting. Each time they test it, the lighting seems to get better, she said.

Goldstein did express some concern about a trench that workers dug in front of the crypt that appears to not have been touched for some time.

Abramson attributed any delays mainly to the indictment this past spring of Arie Bar, the electrical contractor on the renovation of the work.

Bar and his Brooklyn-based AAR/Co Electrical, Inc. company is charged with defrauding eight employees out of about $350,000 by failing to pay them the mandatory prevailing wages on six public projects, including the monument.

Most of the other public works projects were in Queens and no other ones were in Brooklyn.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, the company was paying the workers at rates of $20 to $30 less per hour than the prevailing wages and no benefits.

“However, we are working with the [general] contractor to resolve outstanding issues and are determined to complete this important project in time to celebrate its centennial in November,” said Abramson.

Abramson said shortly after the general contractor resumed work the project also had to deal with cost overruns to the tune of $600,000.

“So basically the general contractor stopped working until the funds were back in the budget. They were recently put back in so the general contractor can return to the job. We anticipate them returning very soon,” he said.

Goldstein said the conservancy raised about $350,000 through a grant from the state Dormitory Authority to renovate the monument and relight the eternal flame.

The conservancy also lobbied elected officials and recently received over $1 million through Borough President Marty Markowitz’s and City Council member Letitia James’ office, said Goldstein.

Goldstein said the additional money will go towards renovation of the Willoughby Street/Washington Park entrance to the park.

Potential sponsors can call Goldstein at (718) 596-0899.

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