Martyrs monument mischief

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Parks Department has fired the electrician rushing to complete the restoration of the Prison Ship Martyrs monument in Fort Greene Park in time for its 100th anniversary in November — and now the agency is scrambling to finish the work on time.

The Brooklyn-based contractor Arie Bar and his company AARCo Electrical had been working on the monument that bears the remains of 11,000 Americans who died aboard British prison ships during the Revolutionary War.

But in May, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown indicted Bar and the company for defrauding employees out of $650,000 in rightful wages on this and five other public projects.

As a result, the city booted Bar and AARCo from the job — and the Parks Department is now rushing to finish the job at one of the country’s most important, yet often overlooked, historical sites.

Many of the tasks are already completed or well underway, but the agency left open the possibility that it might not finish in time.

“We are … determined to complete this important project in time to celebrate [the] centennial in November,” said Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson in an e-mail.

The 100th anniversary has again shone the spotlight on the monument, which historian David McCullough has called “one of the three most sacred sites in American history.” Though it fell into disrepair and neglect, the dedication in November, 1908 was such an important event that then–President-Elect Taft schlepped his considerable girth all the way to Fort Greene for the ribbon-cutting.

Last month, a congressional delegation visited the site on a fact-finding mission that may lead to more federal funding. But that doesn’t mean that the pressure is off the city to wrap up the job; residents keeping a watchful eye on progress of the renovations.

“The work is like 98 percent done,” said Ruth Goldstein of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, which is planning the festivities for the centennial. But, Goldstein added, “I won’t be happy ’til I see it’s done.”

When asked about the charges against him, Bar hung up the phone on The Brooklyn Paper.


An earlier version of this article inaccurately reported that William Howard Taft was president when he attended the unveiling of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in November, 1908. Taft was actually president-elect at the time, though his girth was already presidential in its dimensions. The Brooklyn Paper regrets the error.

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