Tag Archives: Flushing Remonstrance

Local pol fights to gain national recognition of Flushing’s ties to religious freedom


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

The right to religious freedom in America has its roots in Flushing, and now federal lawmakers want to preserve local buildings, including the John Bowne House, where that freedom was first established.

Congress passed a bill that would require the federal government to maintain sites like the John Bowne House in Flushing that are associated with the 1657 signing of the Flushing Remonstrance, the document recognized as the forerunner of religious freedom in America. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng, of Queens, in the House, where it passed in September.

“The 1657 Remonstrance triggered events which established the principle of religious freedom in the colony of New Amsterdam,” said Rosemary Vietor, vice president of the Bowne House Historical Society, “which led to the guarantee of religious freedom in the First Amendment more than 100 years later.”

The bill passed the Senate on Saturday and has been sent to President Obama for his  signature. If the bill is enacted, the National Park Services would examine whether the properties — John Bowne House and the Quaker Meeting House — meet the agency’s standards of being included in the national park system. The study could lead to the locations either becoming a National Historic Park or a National Historic Site or the creation of a partnership to support the facilities.

According to Meng’s office, the bill is likely to be signed by the president soon, helping move a little-known piece of American history out of obscurity.

“Not only would the two facilities become more well-known, but the sites would stand to receive many more visitors each year, and more tourism translates into more dollars for the Queens economy,” Meng said. “It’s time for more people across the country to know about the Flushing Remonstrance, and putting these sites on a national stage is a sure way to accomplish that.”

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Rep. Meng wants Flushing gems added to National Park Service


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Federal park officials are supporting a bill by Congressmember Grace Meng that would make historic Flushing sites part of the National Park Service, the legislator said.

The measure would require the Secretary of the Interior, who oversees federal parkland, to look into whether sites connected to the Flushing Remonstrance could be included in the national park system.

The Remonstrance, a historic 1657 petition, was signed by Peter Stuyvesant and 30 citizens to protest a policy that banned Quakers from practicing their religion in the colony of New Netherland.

Other sites mentioned in the bill are Flushing’s John Bowne House, where the Quakers held meetings, and the Old Quaker Meetinghouse, which was built in 1694 by Bowne and other Quakers.

“The story of the Flushing Remonstrance is not for New Yorkers alone,” Meng said. “It was an early struggle to establish the fundamental right to practice one’s religion.”

National Park Service Associate Director Victor Knox said the Department of the Interior supports the bill during a recent hearing held in Washington, according to Meng.

 

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Recent hate crimes spur return to old ideals


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The document itself may be over 300 years old, but the message it conveys is timeless.

Public officials united to breathe life back into the Flushing Remonstrance — a historic petition dated back to 1657 when Peter Stuyvesant and a group of citizens protested prohibitions against religious freedom — in light of recent anti-Semitic vandalisms that have rocked the borough.

On November 3, six swastikas were spray painted in four locations across East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, including the Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst branches of the Queens Library, the doors of the Congregation Tifereth Israel and St. Joan of Arc Church in Jackson Heights.

“Hate crimes — whether they be motivated by sexual orientation, gender, religion or ethnicity — will not be tolerated,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “When they do regrettably occur, they will be condemned in the strongest possible terms and those responsible will be brought to justice to answer for their actions.”

Franco Rodriguez, a 40-year-old Hispanic male, was arrested on November 11 and charged with four counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime in connection with the vandalisms, according to police.

“Acts like these cannot go unremarked and must be condemned,” said Councilmember Peter Koo. “Nobody should think they can get away with hateful actions like these. These venomous people succeed only when our communities stay silent.”

Dozens of elected officials and religious leaders gathered at Flushing Town Hall on November 23 to speak out and remind the borough’s diverse residents of the Remonstrance’s ideals of tolerance and acceptance.

Mirroring their early colonial predecessors, they each signed the renewed, modernized document, titled “A Pledge for Tolerance and Understanding,” vowed to stand together against those who threaten the ideals of acceptance, and hoped the multiethnic community would soon follow.

Queens Courier publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis said that The Courier was instrumental in bringing the original Remonstrance home to Queens in the late 90s.

“I have so much confidence in the human spirit,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “Yes, there are some bad eggs out there, but everybody’s not bad. We have a great borough. We have space in our hearts and minds to care for our brothers and sisters, no matter who they are.”

Among those in attendance were Assemblymembers Grace Meng, Ed Braunstein, Michael DenDekker, Michael Simanowitz and Rory Lancman, Senator Jose Peralta, Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Peter Koo and Reverend Floyd Flake.