Friday, July 5, 2019

Governor Cuomo Announces Opening of $20 Million First Phase of Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn

407-Acre State Park on Jamaica Bay is Largest in NYC, Offering Hiking, Biking, Fishing and Picnicking; Park Honors Shirley Chisholm, the First African American Congresswoman and First African American Woman to Run for President; New Park a Signature Project in Vital Brooklyn Initiative

July 2, 2019 - Brooklyn, NY - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivers remarks during the opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the opening of the state's newest and largest public park in New York City, the 407-acre Shirley Chisholm State Park along the shores of Jamaica Bay. The new park honors Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, an educator, former representative of the 12th Congressional district in New York for seven terms and the first African American woman to run for president. The park is a signature project of Governor Cuomo's Vital Brooklyn Initiative, which calls for 34 new or improved pocket parks, community gardens, playgrounds and recreation centers within a ten-minute walk of every Central Brooklyn resident.

"Today we add another gem to our treasure trove of state parks, transforming what was once a blemish on the South Brooklyn community into exquisite open space," Governor Cuomo said."Shirley Chisholm fought to improve the health and wellness of underserved communities, a legacy we are carrying on through the Vital Brooklyn Initiative, so we are proud to dedicate this park in memory of her leadership and accomplishments."

 (Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

"Over my career in public service, I've looked to Shirley Chisholm as an inspiration, a role model, and a strong woman who fought for her community," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "Our work to revitalize Brooklyn takes a major step forward today with the opening of New York City's largest state park in honor of one of the greatest women in our state's history. Shirley Chisholm State Park is an important part of our Vital Brooklyn initiative to improve health and wellness and provide great recreational opportunities for the community."

Under the initial $20 million phase, the park will provide ten miles of marked trails for hiking and biking; a bayside pier for picnicking and fishing along the park's Pennsylvania Avenue side; and water access. Environmental educators will offer programs for children who visit the park, where partnerships are planned with environmental groups such as Audubon New York. In addition, a partnership with Bike New York will create the Shirley Chisholm State Park Bike Library, offering free loaner bikes off all sizes to ride the crushed stone trails of the park.

The park also features a colorful mural honoring Chisholm by Brooklyn muralist Danielle Mastrion. Chisholm, a Brooklyn native, was the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. She ran in the Democratic primary for President in 1972 as the first African American woman to seek the nation's highest office. A decade after her death in 2005, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

 (Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Under a second $20 million phase currently under design, additions to the park will include a grand entrance on Fountain Avenue; lawn patios - with one large enough for open-air community gatherings and performances; a patio overlooking Hendrix Creek; and pop-up environmental education facilities in both the Fountain and Pennsylvania Avenue sections of the park. This work should be completed in 2021.

The park is a prime excellent example of the beneficial reuse of a formerly contaminated property. State Parks worked closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to craft redevelopment plans that are protective of public health and the environment. DEC will continue to work closely with State Parks as subsequent phases of the park proceed in the future.

Standing up to 130 feet above sea level, the new park occupies some of the highest ground in the city, with panoramic views of the Empire State Building to the northwest, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and New York Harbor to the west, and Jamaica Bay to the south.

July 2, 2019 - Brooklyn, NY - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivers remarks during the opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

The site, which has never been open to the public, rests atop the former Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue landfills that were operated by New York City Department of Sanitation from 1956 to 1983. After the landfills were closed, the city deeded the land to the National Park Service as part of Gateway National Recreation Area. A project to reclaim the landfills included installation of impermeable plastic and clay caps and a below-ground barrier to support potential future reuse. 

More than 1.2 million cubic yards of clean soil - or enough to fill nearly 100,000 dump trucks - was spread up to four feet deep across the site, which was later planted with more than 35,000 trees and shrubs. The addition of prairie grass and native plants has prevented erosion and encouraged a diverse ecosystem of coastal meadows, wetlands, and woodlands that has attracted a variety of birds and other local wildlife. 

The Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy funded the initial conceptual plan to create the park. For decades, the group pushed the City to close landfills and make them into a park.

 (Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Under the agreement with the National Park Service and the City of New York, New York State Parks is developing Shirley Chisholm State Park in cooperation with the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the DEP, which will continue to manage the former landfill infrastructure.

Shirley Chisholm State Park is the second state park opened by Governor Cuomo in New York City, following the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park in 2012. Shirley Chisholm State Park is one of eight state parks in the city. State Parks operates Bayswater Point State Park and Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens, East River State Park in Brooklyn, Clay Pit Ponds State Park in Staten Island, Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Manhattan, and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.

Elsewhere in the state, the Governor also opened Buffalo Harbor State Park in 2015 and Hallock State Park Preserve on Long Island in 2017.

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