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Andrew Williams’ Affidavit of Petition (1856)

Founded in 1825, Seneca Village was a New York City settlement of mostly African Americans, many of whom were landowners. Irish and German immigrants also began to move into the community throughout the 1840s. By the 1850s, residents of the settlement enjoyed living away from overcrowded downtown Manhattan. In 1853, the city government invoked “eminent domain” to take over all of the land to construct what we now know as Central Park. Eminent domain refers to the right of the government to seize private property for public use. In this case, all Seneca Village residents were forced to leave the community and relocate elsewhere. When Seneca Village residents were forced to leave their community by the city government, a surveyor was assigned to examine their property. Many residents thought the surveyor valued their property at much too low a value, lower than they thought was fair. Andrew Williams, an African American resident and landowner since 1825, decided to file an affidavit in 1856 to petition the valuation of his property. Eventually the entire settlement was destroyed and the first section of the park opened to the public in 1858.

Andrew Williams the owner of Lots number 22 (twenty-two) 23 (twenty-three) and 43 (forty-three) in Block number 786 (Seven Hundred and eighty-six) on Commissioners Map–lying between 85th and 86th Streets Seventh and Eighth Avenues.--objects to the report of the Comrs on the ground that the Comrs have not allowed to said Williams a sufficient sum for the aforesaid lots–they having allowed him the sum of $2335. When he, Williams declares said lots with the house at $4000–and said Williams further says that he has been offered the sum of $3500–for said lots and that he refused the same.

Source | Andrew Williams’s Affidavit of Petition, 1856.
Collection of The New York City Municipal Archives, Bureau of Old Records.
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | “Andrew Williams’ Affidavit of Petition (1856),” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 17, 2024,

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