Central Park-goers soak up the sun every weekend during hot New York City summers. But on a weekend in July, as they stood on top of, leaned on and had picnics on some of the city’s World War I memorials, it was obvious they had no idea, or simply didn’t care, that they were desecrating the monuments and the area, showing little respect, if any, for those who died during battle.
In the area south of Rumsey Playfield, and east of the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, there is the 307th Infantry Regiment Memorial Grove, a lawn area dedicated to those soldiers who gave their lives during World War I.
“New York City is one of the most well-known cities in our country, so it seems only appropriate to place memorials in a place where people would see them,” said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Maggie Hundshamer.
However, it is extremely disrespectful of people to desecrate the memorials, and memorials also need to be better marked, Hundshamer pointed out. And apparently this behavior is common, as people hardly think about the memorial.
“The problem with today’s culture is that we don’t let the younger generation know the sacrifice that our elders made, so they could live and love the way they do,” she said. “They are free because generations before us paved the way and set the path in motion.”
After the war, several young trees were planted in the grove – one for each of the 307th Regiment’s companies; those trees were marked with a plaque containing the names of the men who died during battle.
There are even more distinct markers for the 307th Infantry Regiment Memorial Tree and 307th Infantry Regiment Stone, as well as the Knights of Pythias Stone, which is unrelated to the 307th Infantry but was erected to honor the Knights of Pythias who were lost in WWI. The Knights is a fraternal order charted by Congress in 1864 with the mission to promote universal understanding and peace.
Recent photos show New Yorkers and those visiting the park clearly ignoring the memorial stones and plaques, as they stand on and lean on them.
“War Memorials are numerous in the City’s parks, from modest commemorative plaques honoring solitary soldiers to triumphal arches. More than 270 in number, war memorials account for more than a fourth of all the monuments in our parks,” according to the New York City Parks Department.
Central Park is maintained by the Central Park Conservancy, a non-profit organization that has a contract with New York City.
“When the city opens a new business, they have a grand opening, and the same should be done for placing or ‘remodeling’ a statue that has value,” Hundshamer explained. “No matter how expensive or inexpensive the piece is, the value lies in the names inscribed upon it.”
“By hosting a ceremony of some sort, it lets people know [the memorial] is there and that it’s sacred to the city,” she added.