The five men falsely accused of raping a jogger in 1989 and spent years in prison before being exonerated are honored by having a gate in Central Park named after them by the city of New York. The project received Monday’s unanimous approval from the city’s Public Design Commission.
Central Park Conservancy’s John Reddick told the board that after three years of work inspired by community discussions, the park’s northern entrance at 110th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard will be engraved in sandstone with the words “Gate of the Exonerated.”
Sharonne Salaam, whose son Yusef Salaam, then 15 years old, was among the five Black and Latino men convicted, said the inscription along a perimeter wall would remind people of the difficulties all wrongfully convicted people face in rebuilding their lives after release.
During the City Hall hearing, she stated, “This gate of the exonerated will be… the first of its kind within the United States and possibly the world that speaks to the idea of exoneration of people.”
It’s natural to wonder, “How do we heal this?” after contemplating such a concept, “The words came from her mouth. “Because we’re making fundamental mistakes and need to take a moment to figure out where we’re stumbling and how to correct them.
The Gate of the Exonerated symbolizes the resiliency of the Exonerated Five
Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson, both 14, Antron McCray, 15, Korey Wise, 16, and Salaam, all 16, were convicted of murder in 1994 and spent six to thirteen years in prison before their convictions were overturned in 2002.
The murderer and serial rapist Matias Reyes was identified as the perpetrator of a brutal attack on a white woman, age 28, leaving her with permanent injuries and no recollection of the incident.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams thanked Harlem community leaders for their advocacy after the project was approved on Monday, calling it “a moment of truth and reconciliation for New York City.”
A statement he released read, “The Gate of the Exonerated symbolizes the resiliency of the Exonerated Five and all those who have been wrongfully convicted and serves as a lasting reminder of the grave miscarriage of justice that occurred more than three decades ago.”
The Artisans’ Gate, the Scholars’ Gate, and the Strangers’ Gate are just a few of the other names given to the park’s other entrances, all of which are meant to pay homage to the various communities that make up the city.