NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Human remains buried more than 100 years ago have been unearthed by construction workers at the edge of Washington Square Park.
As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, workers were upgrading century-old water mains along Washington Square Park East near Waverly Place — also steps from several NYU campus buildings — when they discovered the burial vault.
The people in the area were wondering late Wednesday how the human remains got there.
“It is a little creepy,” one resident said.
The burial vault along Washington Square East dates back to the 19th century, and had a large pile of skeletal remains inside.
“It doesn’t creep me as much as it just intrigues me,” said Julia Gouny of Greenwich Village. “If it were more recent it might be creepy; if it were from, like, the 1980s,”
“I think that’s really cool, I do. I think that it’s awesome,” said Omokhe Fue of Greenwich Village. “Washington Square Park used to actually be, like, a burial site, so I mean, it makes sense that they found bones.”
Washington Square Park was used as a potter’s field — a public burial place — after the Revolutionary War.
The vault — which is about 8 feet deep, 15 feet wide and 20 feet long, contained the remains of more than a dozen people, according to officials of the city’s Department of Design and Construction.
People were curious about whom the remains could belong to, and how the bones survived hundreds of years.
“It would be interesting to figure out who they are,” Gouny said. “You would think that they wouldn’t have been preserved that long, so it’s really fascinating.”
The Department of Design and Construction told CBS2 by phone Wednesday tonight that it will be working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to investigate the burial vault.
“As the construction workers found something that was out of the norm, they immediately implemented the protocol and so that we could start looking in more detail what was happening,” said Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora.
Peña-Mora said the construction alignment for the new water main under the park will likely have to be redesigned. But there were valuable lessons in the discovery, he said.
“When we are constructing the city, we learn so much of the past when we build for the future,” Peña-Mora said.
This was not the first time human remains were discovered beneath Washington Square Park. It also happened in 2008 during a soil testing project by city crews.