It’s lights out at Prison Ships memorial

It’s lights out at Prison Ships memorial
The Brooklyn Paper / Will Yakowicz

The eternal flame is not living up to its name — again.

The Prison Ships Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, a tribute to the nearly 12,000 prisoners of war who died on British ships in the East River during the Revolutionary War, has dimmed — and residents’ tempers are burning bright.

“The monument is not getting the justice it deserves,” said Michael Molfetas, a Clinton Hill resident who was appalled that it had taken less than a year since the November, 2008 rededication ceremony for the supposedly eternal flame to go out. “It is here to show America’s strength and to give thanks to people who helped make America what it is today. It’s just not right.”

Last fall, more than 500 people gathered in the park to take part in a relighting ceremony to mark the memorial’s 100th anniversary. But this week, a fact-finding mission by The Brooklyn Paper revealed that three sides of the granite plinth, which sits atop the largest crypt of Revolutionary War remains in the US, are in darkness — and a fourth side is only dimly lit because one of its two spotlights is out.

The Parks Department said that the floodlights are working fine — they’re just a victim of modern technology.

“The lights work, but there is a programming issue with the timer,” said Phil Abramson, an agency spokesman. “We are working on correcting the condition.”

Of course, it’s not the first time that the 101-year-old Doric column and crypt — considered by many to be the most significant war memorial in the country — have been neglected. For decades after the eternal flame was darkened in 1921, the monument was allowed to fall into disrepair. In the 1930s, the elevator that took people to the top was dismantled, and the decay continued until just a few years ago, when the Fort Greene Park Conservancy demanded — and got — repairs.

Here's what it looked like after last year's rededication.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan