How does archaeology happen in New York City?
Archaeological work is primarily conducted within New York City as part of the Environmental Review Process. Federal, state, and city laws require that government agencies assess the environmental effects of discretionary actions before undertaking, approving, or funding such actions. The effect upon historic resources - which may include architecture and archaeological resources–is one of the resource categories that must be considered under these laws. The Landmarks Preservation Commission assists other government agencies, by determining whether their projects may impact significant historic resources, and if they will, recommending and overseeing mitigation measures. Occasionally, archaeology is required under the Landmarks Law, which protects the city’s architectural and historic resources and empowers the Landmarks Preservation Commission to identify, designate, and regulate buildings, districts, sites, and interiors considered significant for their architectural, historic, cultural, or aesthetic qualities under the Landmarks Law. Archaeological resources have been designated in the past such as at the African Burial Ground and the Commons Historic District in Lower Manhattan, the Adrian and Ann Wyckoff Onderdonk House in Ridgewood, Queens, and portions of the Governor’s Island Historic District and in the Fort Totten Historic Disitrict.
What is the Archaeology Department?
The Archaeology Department is responsible for assessing what impact proposed work may have upon potentially significant archaeological resources that are subject to the environmental review process and, occasionally, to the Landmarks Law. Once an impact is noted, the Department assists in determining how to mitigate that impact and oversees the needed work.
Where can I lean more about archaeological review?
The LPC developed reference guidelines for applicants and professional archaeologists to explain the entire review process. They include a brief explanation of the applicable laws, a general overview of the process, and then provide detailed information about each stage of work that may be needed.
Guidelines for Archaeological Work in New York City
Who do I call if I find something?
Please contact the Commission, if you find something you think may be significant. Please note the location of the find, and describe what you see in as much detail as possible. Photographs are greatly appreciated. The LPC is only open from 9 AM-5 PM Monday- Friday. If work is occurring outside of these hours which you think may destroy the potential resource, please record as much information about what you see as possible as it may be the only information we will have about what you have observed.
If you find human remains, or potential human remains, you must contact the police and medical examiner immediately. They will direct you about how to proceed.