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Cuomo opens first portion of Shirley Chisholm State Park in East New York - Brooklyn Paper

Cuomo opens first portion of Shirley Chisholm State Park in East New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo named the park after native Brooklynite Shirley Chisholm, who became the country’s first black Congresswoman in 1968 and ran for president four years later. Kings County muralist Danielle Mastrion created this artwork at the entrance of the new park.
Mike Groll

State and federal politicians celebrated the partial opening of a sprawling, but stripped-down version of a state park announced last year honoring the country’s first black congresswoman in East New York on July 2.

The state invested $20 million to fund the first portion of Shirley Chisholm State Park — located on 407-acres of former landfill off Pennsylvania Avenue south of Starrett City — which offers 10 miles of marked hiking and biking trails, a bayside pier for picnicking and fishing along Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as water access and a colorful mural of the trailblazing legislator by Brooklyn artist Danielle Mastrion, according to the Governor’s office.

Officials claimed last year the state would solicit input from the public on the park’s second design phase this fall, with ambitious proposals including a connector bridge or cable car over the water separating the park’s two halves between the Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue sites, along with an environmental education center, lawn patios, and an amphitheater for live events.

Since then, state parks officials have scaled back plans for the second phase, replacing the amphitheater with lawn patios — including one large enough to accommodate 200 people and host community gatherings or performances — the environmental center with pop-up education facilities, and axing plans for a connecting bridge or cable car between the two landmasses, spokesman Brian Nearing told this paper via an emailed statement.

Further design elements could still be included in future phases, if state lawmakers agree to provide additional funding during next year’s budget negotiations, according to Nearing.

“Additional design elements will be contemplated in the subsequent phase once a budget is identified,” he said.

The park is part of Cuomo’s $1.4 billion health initiative “Vital Brooklyn,” which aims to improve the quality of life for residents in some of the borough’s lower-income neighborhoods by opening nearby green spaces and playgrounds.

Cuomo dedicated the park to Chisholm, who won her seat in Congress in 1968, ran for president four years later, and fought for the health and well-being of her most disadvantaged constituents throughout her time in office, according to Cuomo.

“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,” he said.

Cuomo boasted that the new public green space is the largest state park in all five boroughs, but Brooklyn’s largest will remain the city-owned Marine Park, at 530 acres, followed closely by Prospect Park at 526 acres.

The new park is also one of only two state parks in the borough, along with Williamsburg’s East River State Park.

Two city leaders are planning to erect their own memorials to honor the lawmaker in the borough, including one sculpture planned for Prospect Park’s Parkside Avenue entrance by First Lady Charlene McCray and a statue in Brower Park in Crown Heights by local councilman Robert Cornegy Jr.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Fresh green: Cuomo opened the first slice of Shirley Chisholm State Park, which stretches across the former Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfill sites in East New York’s Jamaica Bay waterfront on July 2.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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