Although the damage may never be undone, New York City is making another effort to right the wrongs done to the five Black and Latino men known to the world as the Central Park Five. This week, the city’s Public Design Commission unanimously approved calling a gate at the northern end of the 840-acre park “Gate of the Exonerated.”
Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray and Korey Wise were between the ages of 14 and 16 when they wrongfully accused of the 1989 rape of a 28-year-old white female jogger in Central Park. Their conviction led them to spend years in prison before they were eventually exonerated in 2002. After some members of the group sued the city for mishandling their case, the men received a $41 million settlement in 2014.
But that was not before the former President stuck his misinformed nose into the case in true Trump fashion and helped spread the disinformation. Then a New York City businessman, Trump bought an $85,000 newspaper ad calling for the teens execution for the crime they actually didn’t commit. “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY AND BRING BACK OUR POLICE,” the ad read.
Even after a confession and DNA evidence eventually linked convicted murder and serial rapist Matias Reyes to the crime, Trump showed no remorse and refused to apologize for his actions. “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt,” Trump said in a 2019 interview with April Ryan for American Urban Radio Networks. “If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we’ll leave it at that.”
Sharonne Salaam, mother of Yusef Salaam, sees the new gate as a lasting tribute to her son’s legacy. “This gate of the exonerated will be ... the first of its kind within the United States and possibly in the world that speaks to the idea of exoneration of people,” she said during a city hall hearing.
New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams, who spent more than 20 years with the New York City Police Department, echoed Salaam’s sentiments in a statement.
“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 took place more than three decades ago,” he said.