After a local historian warned that Colonial relics might be lost in the construction of a $50 million apartment complex downtown, the state’s top fossil-finder announced he will step in.
Nicholas Bellantoni, the state archeologist, said Friday he has reached an agreement with Centerplan development, the company that’s putting up the building at the corner of College and Crown Streets.
“We have reach a cooperative agreement with them for me to monitor activities and recover and record any artifacts,” Bellantoni said in an email message.
Bellantoni’s monitoring comes after local historian and artist Rob Greenberg announced his theory that the construction zone could contain a cache of archeological treasures from New Haven’s colonial era. Greenberg sought access to the site to recover any artifacts unearthed in the excavation.
Centerplan’s Robert Landino told Greenberg that he couldn’t accept the legal liability of having Greenberg onsite.
Landino said Friday that Bellantoni contacted him after news of Greenberg’s theory broke in the Independent. “We met with him on Wednesday,” Landino said. “There’s simply no way we could have accommodated Mr. Greenberg, so we wanted to make sure we were taking every step to ensure that there was nothing that was significant to be recovered.”
Bellantoni inspected the site on Wednesday and is “working with Centerplan to develop a strategy of recording and gathering information in order for the development project to continue to move forward,” according to a release from Centerplan. Bellantoni will visit the site over the next several weeks and “provide guidance” for the rest of the project.
Landino said his crew has found about a half-dozen old bottles that it turned over to Bellantoni. “Anything we say that looked like an artifact we removed.”
“My field review suggests that the artifacts and structural features encountered thus far date to the late-19th and early 20th centuries,” Bellantoni said in his email.
Landino said he’s not sure exactly how Bellantoni will proceed with his monitoring operation. “It’s up to him. He said he was going to be back in early May.”
Bellantoni couldn’t be reached for further comment.
“He’s not doing and archeological investigation,” Landino said. “We’re just being careful and mindful.”
Greenberg welcomed the monitoring, but said he’s still concerned that artifacts will be lost.
“It’s very positive that Nick is coming into the site and I applaud Centerplan and Bob Landino for allowing that investigation to happen now,” Greenberg said. “I’m a little cautious to how much in-depth study can be done. He’s probably not going to be able to conduct a real archeological dig.”
“Are they just suppressing attention by saying he can be there? It’s really a matter of how much activity when something is found they’ll allow Nick to have.”
Greenberg said his main concern is the educational opportunities that may be lost if relics are lost. “It really boils down to the students of New Haven. Whatever is found there—especially in the shadow of the arts and humanities school—is for the students.”