‘East New York is on the rise’: Parks department overhauls two local greenspaces to honor local history, improve community spaces

east new york parks renovation
Greenspaces in Brownsville and East New York are undergoing major transformations in an effort to honor history and improve local community spaces.
Photo courtesy of Malcolm Pinckney/NYC Parks

A multi-million dollar plan for two Brooklyn greenspaces is underway in order to promote accessibility and cultural awareness for all.

On. Nov. 22, parks department officials, local politicians, and Brownsville community members gathered to unveil a $4.1 million overhaul of the Lion’s Pride Playground on Riverdale Avenue. 

lions pride playground brownsville
The Lion’s Pride Playground was outfitted with all-new play equipment. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Pinckney/NYC Parks

The Lion’s Pride Playground was named so in 1998 in order to honor an animal that is symbolic of strength, power, and beauty, according to the parks department. For more than 20 years, it served as a well-loved community space – but, by 2022, it was badly in need of some upgrades.

Now, the park features upgraded play equipment with ADA-accessible features, swings for multiple age groups, and a new spray shower.

The upgrades were funded by the Office of the Mayor and Council Member Charles Barron whose vision for the community space also included the addition of a basketball court, adult fitness equipment, and a multi-purpose plaza.

The plaza space, designated for hosting community events and performances, is located in an area of the playground that was previously vacant.

“Lion’s Pride Playground has been transformed into an amazing, state-of-the-art playground, and Sankofa Park will be a thoughtful space that honors the African Burial Ground and respects the dignity of those interred there,” said parks department Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Martin Maher. “The improvements to both spaces were made possible by the advocacy of Charles and Inez Barron and will serve the East New York community for generations to come.” 


basketball courts in brownsville park
Before the $4.1 million overhaul, the playground had not been renovated since 1999.Photo courtesy of Malcolm Pinckney/NYC Parks

Big changes are also in store for Sankofa Park, just over a mile away from the playground on Livonia Avenue. The upcoming $4.9 million transformation of the park is a joint effort by Barron, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, the Office of the Mayor, and New York State to bring light to a previously unknown part of Brooklyn history. 

Before the park was renamed in 2016, it was known as Schenck Park after the prominent slave-owning family of the same name who once lived in the area.

However, after fragmentary human remains were discovered at the site, efforts were made to honor the site’s African American history. Its new name derives from the Akan Twi language of Ghana and a Bono Adinkra symbol which refers to a mythical bird that flies into the future while keeping its beak turned toward the past, serving as a reminder to keep moving forward while remembering what came before. 

Now, Sankofa Park is looking toward its own future. On Nov. 22, the city celebrated the start of construction work to install new play equipment and a basketball court, plus upgrade the park’s public bathrooms, seating, and fencing. 

plaque in Brownsville park
The Sankofa Park will feature a commemorative space to honor the people buried on part of the parkland. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Pinckney/NYC Parks

The city will also create a commemorative space to recognize the people who are buried in the historic African burial ground on the parkland.

“Sankofa Park along with the new library coming to our community represents a cultural hub that will highlight the major essential contribution of our African Ancestors in building East New York!” Barron said in a statement. “The Lion’s Pride Park is truly a blessing for our children! East New York is on the rise!”