STATEMENT OF VICTOR KNOX, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1389 AND H.R. 1501, BILLS TO STUDY THE SUITABILITY AND FEASABILITY OF DESIGNATING THE PRISON SHIP MARTYRS' MONUMENT IN FORT GREENE PARK, IN THE NEW YOR CITY BOROUGH OF BROOKLYN, AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM.
July 23, 2014
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior's views on S. 1389 and H.R. 1501, as passed by the House, bills to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument in Fort Greene Park, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, as a unit of the National Park System.
The Department supports enactment of this legislation with amendments. However, we believe that priority should be given to the 24 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic Rivers System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress.
S. 1389 and H.R. 1501 authorize a special resource study of the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument. This study would determine whether this site meets the National Park Service's criteria for inclusion in the National Park System of national significance, suitability, and feasibility, and need for National Park Service management. The study would also consider other alternatives for preservation, protection, and interpretation of the resources. We estimate the cost of the study to range from $100,000 to $200,000, based on similar types of studies conducted in recent years.
The Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument commemorates the sacrifice of over 11,000 patriots who died while incarcerated in British prison ships anchored off Brooklyn during the American Revolution. The monument was constructed in 1908 and is located in Fort Greene Park. Designed by the architect Stanford White and set in a landscape designed by the landscape architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, it is 149 feet tall and constructed of granite. Prominent sculptural elements were executed by Adolph Alexander Weinman. The monument's base includes a crypt containing some the remains of the prisoners recovered from the Brooklyn waterfront in the nineteenth century. Also, Fort Greene Park was the location of American fortifications during the Battle of Long Island, and has been classified as a “Class A Battlefield Commemorative Property” in the National Park Service Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States, dated September 2007.
Construction of the monument was funded jointly by the federal government and the City of New York; it is currently owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Both the monument and Fort Greene Park are contributing resources to the Fort Greene Historic District that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For both S. 1389 and H.R. 1501, we recommend an amendment to change the reporting requirement for the study from one year after enactment of the bill to three years after funding is made available, consistent with the requirements for special resource studies in the National Park System General Authorities Act. Further, since the name of the act has been enacted into law, we recommend section 1(b)(2) of S. 1389 be amended to reflect this.
We also recommend that the committee act on S. 1389, rather than H.R. 1501. If the committee acts on H.R. 1501, we recommend an amendment deleting certain requirements for the study. Specifically, we urge deleting section 1(b)(3)(d), which would require an analysis of the effect of designation as a unit of the National Park System on existing commercial and recreational activities, and on activities concerning energy production and transmission infrastructure, and on the authority of state and local governments to manage those activities. We also urge deleting section 1(b)(3)(e), which would require an identification of any authorities that would compel or permit the Secretary of the Interior to influence or participate in local land use decisions or place restrictions on non-federal lands. The purpose of conducting a special resource study is to determine whether a resource meets the criteria for inclusion in the National Park System and, if it does not, to provide information on alternative means to protect the resource. We believe that the special resource study requirements under existing law result in a sufficient amount of information and analysis of the effects of including a resource in the National Park System. These additional requirements could potentially increase the cost of the study and the time required to complete it.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes our prepared statement. I would be happy to respond to any questions about this matter.