Eminent Domain

“Get Tall Charles up here. He’s a good reader.”

The boy was fetched. He puzzled over the parchment. “From what I can make out of this, they gonna take all our land for what they call the greater good of New York.”

Owens was indignant. “They can’t do that. We own this land. We own the houses on it!”

Williams smiled at this sally. A one-time shoeshine and the first settler of the village, he’d always thought it was only a matter of time before the whites realized what they had done. They’d probably pay the landowners, but not enough.

Friday Fictioneers

Historical Note:
For African-Americans, Seneca Village offered the opportunity to live in an autonomous community far from the densely populated downtown. Despite New York State’s abolition of slavery in 1827, discrimination was still prevalent throughout New York City, and severely limited the lives of African-Americans. Seneca Village’s remote location likely provided a refuge from this climate. It also would have provided an escape from the unhealthy and crowded conditions of the City, and access to more space both inside and outside the home.

In 1853, the New York State Legislature enacted a law that set aside 775 acres of land in Manhattan — from 59th to 106th Streets, between Fifth and Eighth Avenues — to create the country’s first major landscaped public park.

The City acquired the land through eminent domain.



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    • Anonymous

      Yeah, same old story again and again. As I watch the American empire crumble, I can only ask myself “what took so long?”

  1. Na'ama Yehuda

    Well told. NY is coming into more reckoning with it, and there are now signs in Central Park at the area of Seneca Village, and an exhibit in the NY Historical Society across the road.

  2. granonine

    One can only sigh in despair. Reading world history is immersing one’s self into the history of man’s inhumanity toward man. So has it always been, and probably will ever be.

  3. Anonymous

    It is always the same. When the authorities want something they find every excuse and even resort to passing Laws to take it away the freedom of others. An interesting piece of history that gets repeated frequently.

Don't just stand there.