12.05.16

SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO FORMALLY ESTABLISH TUBMAN PARK BY THE END OF THIS YEAR – RECENT PROGRESS PUTS ESTABLISHMENT OF TUBMAN PARK IN THE HOME STRETCH; SCHUMER SAYS DOI MUST CROSS THE FINISH LINE BY YEAR’S END TO MAKE LONG-AWAITED PARK A REALITY

Schumer Has Long Fought To Create Historical National Park In Her Longtime Home Of Auburn Celebrating The Life Of American Hero Harriet Tubman; Schumer Authored & Passed Legislation To Create Park, But DOI Must Officially Establish Park To Become A Reality

Schumer Successfully Pushed DOJ To Sign The Land Transfer Agreement That Allows DOI to Establish Site As An Official Unit Of NPS; Schumer Urges Feds to Formally Establish Tubman Park Before The End of This Year

Schumer to Feds: Finalize Park Agreement So Auburn, NY Can Tell Story of Harriet Tubman’s Extraordinary Life For Current and Future Generations

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Department of the Interior (DOI) to formally establish the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Auburn, New York before the end of the year. Schumer has long fought to create this park to celebrate the life of Harriet Tubman in her longtime home of Auburn. Previously, Schumer successfully passed legislation that paved the way to this park’s creation, but the park still needs to be officially established under the DOI’s National Park Service (NPS). Schumer also successfully urged the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) to sign the land transfer agreement that allows for the establishment of this site as an official unit of NPS. Following the news that the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church and  the Harriet Tubman Home have recently finalized their land transfer agreement, Schumer urged DOI to provide the final sign-off that is needed to make this park a reality.

“It is absolutely critical that the Department of Interior makes the establishment of Tubman Park final, so we can celebrate another huge milestone in the opening of this important historical park and provide it the necessary resources to expedite its availability to the public,” said Schumer. “This park’s establishment has been in the works for years and is tantalizingly close to becoming a reality, so I’m putting the feds on notice: move this project across the finish line and formally establish Tubman Park by the end of this year. The Tubman Historic Park in Auburn, New York will be a magnet for visitors that will tell the amazing story of Harriet Tubman’s life – an American hero if ever there was one – for generations to come. I am going to continue fighting tooth and nail until this dream is made official and becomes a reality.”

Schumer explained that, in order to make Tubman Park a reality, the DOI and DOJ had to complete a land transfer agreement with local stakeholders that officially established the park as a unit of NPS. Specifically, the federal government had to acquire an interest in the land that makes up the park to meet the necessary requirements for establishment. For this reason, the AME Zion Church and Harriet Tubman Home were required to submit a petition to the New York State Attorney General to release the church for sale to the NPS.  Once establishment is finalized, The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park will be made up of several important historical structures in Auburn, which include Tubman’s home, the Home for the Aged she established, the AME Zion Church, and the Fort Hill Cemetery where she is buried.

Schumer said New York State recently approved the petition to release the land for sale. This allows for the necessary land transfer to be completed with NPS that will allow for the official establishment of the park. Schumer therefore urged DOI to allocate all available resources to ensure the establishment of the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park occurs before the end of this year. Schumer said the establishment of this park is too important to be dragged into 2017. 

Schumer has long fought to make Tubman Park a reality. Most recently, Schumer announced in April that the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch signed on to the General Agreement that will allow the Harriet Tubman Residence in Auburn to become a National Park. In addition, Schumer previously fought for and passed legislation to authorize the creation of the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn as a National Historical Park, in order to honor the life of the American hero Harriet Tubman at her home in Central New York. This legislation was passed as a part of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which included a provision that created two National Historical Parks, one in New York and one in Maryland. 

The National Historical Park in New York will be located in Auburn and commemorates the later years of Harriet Tubman’s life where she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in providing for the welfare of aged African Americans. The National Historical Park in Maryland will trace Tubman’s early life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she was born and later escaped from slavery to become one of the leaders on the Underground Railroad. The Harriet Tubman Residence is a historic landmark in a region with a strong history of individuals rooted in social activism and justice. An escaped slave herself, Tubman used her home in Auburn to shelter her parents and many African Americans who escaped slavery – some of whom she guided herself.

Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, where she spent nearly 30 years as a slave.  She escaped slavery in 1849, but returned to the Eastern Shore several times over the course of 10 years to lead hundreds of African Americans to freedom in the North.  Known as “Moses” by African-American and white abolitionists, she reportedly never lost a “passenger” on the Underground Railroad. In Maryland, The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park would include historically important landscape in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties that are evocative of the life of Harriet Tubman.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to DOI appears below:

Dear Secretary Jewell,

I write to urge the Department of the Interior (DOI) to allocate all available resources to ensure the establishment of the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Auburn, New York occurs before the end of this year.  Once Harriet Tubman National Historic Park is established, it will be eligible for National Park Service (NPS) funding for operational and capital improvements to be undertaken that are necessary for the unit to be open to the public as a National Park.  This is why it is imperative that you finalize the establishment, so we can celebrate another huge milestone in the opening of this important historical park and provide it the necessary resources to expedite its availability to the public.  

As you know, The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York will be located in Auburn and commemorates the life of Harriet Tubman where she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in providing for the welfare of aged African Americans.  This park was made possible by a provision in the FY 15 version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  In order for the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park to open to the public as a unit of the National Park Service, it must first be officially established by acquiring a sufficient quantity of land, or interests in land, to constitute a manageable park unit. It has come to my attention that the AME Zion Church and Harriet Tubman Home have recently received approval from the New York State Attorney General to release the church for sale to the National Park Service (NPS). Now that New York State has approved this petition, the necessary land transfer can be completed, which will allow for the official establishment of the park. 

Once establishment occurs, crucial first steps including the creation of a brochure, park website, and preservation plans for the Parker Street properties require funding through the DOI. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the community have also invested significant resources in making the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park a reality.  I urge you to have all of the available resources dedicated to completing the land transfer so that we can officially establish this historic park a unit of the Park Service, while also allowing for crucial federal investments to begin as soon as possible.

Again, I urge you to stand at the ready to establish the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park before the end of the year, so that the important legacy of Harriet Tubman can be told through the preservation of the site which includes the Tubman Home for the Aged, the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church, and Harriet Tubman's former residence. All of these pieces will help the park tell the important story of Harriet Tubman’s heroic life for future generations. 

I appreciate your attention to this important request and look forward to seeing this unit of the National Park Service become a reality as soon as possible. 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer  

United States Senator



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