Rock star in Sunset Park

Meet the rock star of Sunset Park.

A large boulder – found during street excavations in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street — has been moved along Fifth Avenue to 35th Street to mark the site of Martense Lane, a byway that existed during the Revolutionary War, and where a portion of the Battle of Brooklyn took place.

It was an immediate hit. Since its recent arrival, over 100 people have visited.

The move was the brainchild of local resident Tony Giordano – Sunset Parker on Facebook — who was aided in his quest by both those who follow him on Facebook and members of Sunset Park Restoration. “We had only one desire – to create a local, historically accurate landmark where school children could actually ‘touch’ history, he said.

Giordano explained that Greenwood Cemetery, which abuts the location, and the New York City Department of Transportation had allowed the move to be made, after the significance of the effort was explained to them.

We were careful to not have the stone intrude on the paved sidewalk, nor touch the historic fence of Greenwood. Volunteers built a strong, attractive flower box around it, added soil and compost and planted flowers,” said Giordano, adding that volunteers regularly visit the rock to water the flowers and dispose of trash that blows over.

Soon enough, third graders from P.S. 24 were the first students to take a class trip to the location. Beforehand, local educator Evelyn Ruiz-Reilly noted, “When the children visit the rock, they will be ‘transported’ back to a time when the only road in the area was Martense Lane. And it will be an opportunity to explain to them that this rock, like many rocks in Sunset Park, was brought here 14,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.”

Giordano said a similar boulder was an important element in the Legend of Martense Lane – a folktale passed down as oral history of the old Gowanus settlement.

According to Giordano, in the legend, a Dutch slave walking late on Martense Lane met a stranger, and entered into either a dancing or a fiddling competition with him. After the slave bested the stranger, the latter stamped in fury on the boulder, leaving an imprint of a hoof behind, and revealing to the slave that the individual against whom he had been competing was, in fact, the devil.

Says Giordano, the legend embodies the principal that good will always triumph over evil.

We believe that this rock will become a magical place, a place where all Sunset Parkers will feel united in a joint history and that tens of thousands of schoolchildren will have history come alive with their first touch of the rock,” said Jovita Vergara-Sosa, who started the ball rolling after she saw the boulder near OLPH.

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