The designations are the latest in the agency’s efforts for more inclusive designations. On June 22, 2021, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Kimlau War Memorial in Chinatown and the Aakawaxung Munahanung (Island Protected from the Wind) Archaeological Site in Staten Island. The designations mark the first New York City designated landmarks to recognize Chinese American and Native American history.
The Kimlau War Memorial, located in Kimlau Square, is a granite ceremonial gateway arch located at the intersection of Chatham Square, Oliver Street and East Broadway. The memorial was built to honor the memory of Chinese American soldiers who died during service and features inscriptions in Chinese and English. The arch was sponsored by the Lieutenant B.R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial Post 1291 of the American Legion and was named in honor of Second Lieutenant Benjamin Ralph Kimlau, a Chinese American pilot who was killed in action in 1944 while attacking Japanese military installations in the South Pacific during World War II. For CityLand’s prior coverage of the Kimlau War Memorial, click here.
The Aakawaxung Munahanung (Island Protected from the Wind) Archaeological Site was previously calendared as the “Conference House Archeological Site” as the site is located within Conference House Park in Tottenville, Staten Island. The site’s true name was identified through further research and consultation with the city’s Federally-recognized tribes. The site has been the location of over 19 archaeological projects that have uncovered evidence of Indigenous life starting from about 8,000 years ago through the Colonial period. A village of Lenape people was likely at the site during the Woodland period (500 BC – 1100 AD), and they relied on the area’s fish, oysters, game and other resources.
Around 1670, during the Colonial period, the British enacted land deeds that took Staten Island from the Lenape. Christopher Billopp received a patent for land that included this archaeological site as well as the area to the north of the site. He built Conference House here in 1675, and the house is already a designated New York City Landmark. The area is currently under the ownership of the New York City Parks Department. For CityLand’s prior coverage, click here.
Landmarks Chair Sarah Carroll stated, “I am proud that today the Commission designated its first landmark specifically recognizing New York City’s many thousands of years of Native American history and culture, and also the first landmark recognizing the contributions of its Chinese American community. As part of the agency’s equity framework, I am committed to advancing the designation of landmarks that better represent the city’s diversity and tell the story of all New Yorkers. The recognition and celebration of the history that these two sites embody is so important, and both are within city parks and accessible for the public to enjoy.”
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP stated, “We thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission for recognizing the historic and cultural significance of the Aakawaxung Munahanung (Island Protected from the Wind) Archaeological Site in Conference House Park and the Kimlau War Memorial at Kimlau Square. As we work to build a more equitable park system, these landmark designations increase representation and honor the stories and contributions of both Indigenous peoples and Chinese Americans in our public spaces.”
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)