Bay Ridge’s Leif Erickson Park now includes an area named after one of the neighborhood’s natives — Gilbert Sorrentino, a famed postmodernist author who died in his hometown in 2006.
Local officials unveiled “Sorrentino Square” at 67th Street and Fourth Avenue on Dec. 21, and one local historian hopes the renaming will inspire a new generation of Sorrentino enthusiasts.
“Gilbert Sorrentino is the best writer Bay Ridge has produced, and someone for whom Bay Ridge was a muse,” said Henry Stewart, who noted that while Sorrentino received high praise throughout his writing career, he is not particularly well known in his native Bay Ridge, which led the local historian to recommend the park dedication.
“Unfortunately, he’s not especially well-known here. I grew up loving two things — books and Bay Ridge — and I never heard of the guy until a few years ago, when a poet at a reading I was hosting mentioned him off-hand,” he told Brooklyn Paper.
Stewart, who himself has authored a collection of books about the neighborhood, said he hopes the renaming will both inspire his neighbors and ensure that Sorrentino’s literary contributions will always be memorialized where he grew up.
“By naming a park for him, we honor and celebrate a gifted native son — but we also ensure people will hear his name, so it won’t be forgotten. The work is too meaningful,” he said.
The local historian was on hand for the square’s official unveiling at the end of December, which came more than a year after Community Board 10 voted unanimously to support the renaming, and was also attended by New York City Parks Department Commissioner Marty Maher and Bay Ridge Councilman Justin Brannan.
The rich cultural history that has come out of Bay Ridge is often forgotten, Brannan told Brooklyn Paper, and keeping names like Sorrentino’s in the forefront might help prevent that for future generations.
“My friend Henry said it best: if Bay Ridge isn’t known for a long and proud history of arts and culture, it’s not because the legacy doesn’t exist but because we’ve forgotten about it,” the councilman said.
Sorrentino was applauded for his endeavors in metafiction, wherein readers are reminded that they are reading a fictional story and is regarded for “reinventing the ideal of the novel” in some of his 30-plus published works.