New York City unveiled the “Gate of the Exonerated” in Central Park Monday to honor the group of Black and Hispanic teens known as the “Central Park Five” who were wrongfully convicted of beating and raping a White female jogger in the park more than 30 years ago.
Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam – individuals from the group, also known as the “Exonerated Five” – each served several years in prison before being exonerated in 2002.
New York Mayor Eric Adam’s reflected on the historic moment and presented a key to the city to the exonerated five.
“History has an opportunity to rewrite the lines,” he said.
Adams, a police officer at the time, said it “was a challenging time to be in that department with 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and standing up and fighting on behalf of these brothers.”
“We knew what had happened to them was wrong and we refuse to remain silent,” he added.
“The exonerated five is the American black boy-man story,” he said, adding, “They stood firm, they stood tall.”
Adams said the DOE should implement school trips to talk about what happened.
“I think all of our young men and boys, the Board of Education. Chancellor Banks, we should be having school trips to talk about this story because as time moves forward, we believe that there were not real struggles to get us where we are right now and we lose the historical moments that took place,” the mayor said. “That’s why this is so significant.”
The gate was unveiled near Central Park North, between 5th Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard.
The entrance, at 110th Street, now has “Gate of the Exonerated” inscribed on the perimeter wall. It features a historical sign with background information about the entrance’s name and a QR code linking to online resources.
The New York City Public Design Commission unanimously approved the project earlier this year.
The unanimous vote was the fruit of years of work “with the Harlem community and Manhattan Community Board 10 to commemorate the Exonerated Five and all those wrongfully convicted of crimes,” a spokesperson for the Central Park Conservancy said in a statement earlier this year.
The city settled a lawsuit in 2014 with the five men, who were teens at the time of the crime and coerced amid a public uproar over race into confessing to the attack.
The identity of the jogger, Trish Meili, was kept hidden for more than a decade.