New gate name honoring the Exonerated Five unveiled in Central Park

Members of the Exonerated Five, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Cicely Harris, Chair of Community Board 10, and Betsy Smith, President and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, at the Gate of the Exonerated.
Members of the Exonerated Five, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Cicely Harris, Chair of Community Board 10, and Betsy Smith, President and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, at the Gate of the Exonerated.
Photo courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy

A new gate inspired by the Exonerated Five was unveiled in Central Park on Monday.

On Dec. 19, 2002, the convictions of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam were vacated after they served prison sentences for their wrongful convictions in a 1989 case. Now, 20 years later, the “Gate of the Exonerated” has been unveiled in Central Park by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Manhattan Community Board 10, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks), the Central Park Conservancy, and the Harlem community.

“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,” said Mayor Adams. “Today marks a moment of truth and reconciliation for New York City, and it’s only fitting that the most iconic park in the world tell the world this important story. I thank the Harlem community leaders and Manhattan Community Board 10, whose advocacy made this naming, the first in Central Park’s history since 1862, a reality.”

“The Gate of the Exonerated will serve as a permanent reminder of the resilience of the Exonerated Five and the importance of healing and reconciliation,” said Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Director Deanna Logan. “The Gate will be a lasting symbol to all that change is possible and that we are all responsible to work toward a city that is safe and fair for all New Yorkers.”  

Located on Central Park North between Malcolm X Boulevard and Fifth Avenue, this gate, which is Central Park’s first named gate since 1862, honors all of those who have been wrongfully convicted. it also recognizes the ongoing struggle and fight to ensure justice for all.

“I never reentered Central Park because of what happened to me and my fellow members of the Exonerated Five. Even when my daughter was born, there were moments I wanted to take her because of the beautiful playgrounds for the children, but I couldn’t bring myself to enter,” said Santana. “Now that my daughter is an adult, it’s time for us to go to Central Park, see the Gate of the Exonerated, and once again be a part of the park community.”

The gate is the result of more than two years of extensive, in-depth dialogue among the Harlem community as well as a response to the community’s desire for healing and belonging in the aftermath of the Exonerated Five’s case, particularly for Black and Latino New Yorkers. The naming of the gate also aims to highlight wrongful incarcerations that are a product of inequities inherent in the justice system, and ultimately to honor all those affected.

“The naming of the Gate of the Exonerated will rightfully serve as a permanent reminder of one of our city’s greatest historical injustices, recognizing all the lives who have been torn apart by an unfair system and enlightening future generations so that they will not repeat the same mistakes,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “I commend the Exonerated Five and their families for their tireless fight, as well as the Harlem community, Manhattan Community Board 10, NYC Parks, Central Park Conservancy, and all the people who contributed towards making this naming a reality.”

“The commemoration of this entrance is bittersweet,” said Dr. Yusef Salaam. “Many lives have been impacted by wrongful convictions across the nation and right here in our community. But when God restores, 100 times more than what was taken is what is given. And 20 years to the day since our convictions were vacated, I can proudly say this Gate of the Exonerated serves as a reminder of the love and support we have received. For that, I am truly thankful and honored — and recommitted to righting the wrongs of our criminal system of injustice to ensure our youth never face what we did.”

“The Gate of the Exonerated speaks to the idea of the exoneration of people across the country and sheds a bright light on all of those wrongfully accused and incarcerated,” said Sharonne Salaam, mother of Dr. Yusef Salaam; member, Justice4TheWrongfullyIncarcerated. “Central Park was in our backyard, it was right across the street. By naming a gate in Central Park for this community of New Yorkers, we are taking one positive step forward towards healing.”