This project was a six year effort to reclaim the famous St. Mark’s graveyards from years of deterioration and make them available as neighborhood recreational spaces. These graveyards and St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery comprise the St. Mark’s Landmark. The church is the second oldest public building in New York.
In 1969 the East graveyard was eroding across the sidewalk into the bed of Second Avenue. The West graveyard had been locked shut and abandoned for years. Over 150 community youngsters provided the labor to complete this project. In the attempt to combat urban poverty and to be a catalyst in the revitalization of the area, this project provided full time summer and after school jobs for these youngsters.
The East yard, on a heavily trafficked avenue, was planned as a large open space to allow for group activities. The West Yard, surrounded by residences, was conceived as a quieter space with a series of curvilinear hills for planting and plaza like areas for use by Day Care groups, other young children and resting spots for older citizens.
Without disturbing the underground vaults or the stone entrance markers, the young people have restored proper drainage patterns, set in cobblestones and bricks for perimeter definition, and handmade paving blocks. New planting, lighting, trees and seating areas have been provided. The graveyards are now a public treasure for the community to enjoy for years to come.
In the 1970s, the project earned First Prize from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects New York State chapter, and the Award of Merit for Excellence in Civic Architecture and Urban Design from the City Club of New York Bard Awards.