State to host public design workshops for contested Marsha P. Johnson State Park

The now-scrapped proposal for Marsha P. Johnson State Park.
New York State Parks

Answering weeks of outcry over the controversial revamp of Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg, greenspace gurus will host a handful of virtual and in-person workshops on how to better commemorate the lawn’s namesake LGBTQ icon.

State park honchos announced eight public sessions for the waterfront Kent Avenue park near N. Eighth Street between March 31 and May 3, seeking design alternatives from the public to honor the late gay liberation activist and celebrate the LGBTQ+ movement, according to the agency.

“The workshops will help develop a shared vision for the commemorative design and interpretive elements to celebrate the life of Marsha P. Johnson and the LGBTQ+ movement,” reads a March 17 release from State Parks.

The workshops are divided into three groups, starting with three listening sessions, followed by three public design reviews, and two final reviews. They will be broken into hourly segments, each including a short introduction, followed by small-group break-out sessions, and a wrap-up.

Participants do not need to attend the entire workshop, but should join at the top of the hour, according to State Parks. 

The first session on Wednesday, March 31, will be held via Zoom due to the forecasted rain and each of the three categories will have one virtual and one or two in-person sessions at the park, weather permitting. 

Albany greenspace managers ditched their own controversial design for a splashy mural across one of the park’s two concrete slabs and informational plaques with flowery designs after backlash from nearby residents and Johnson’s relatives, which boiled over at a meeting with Community Board 1 on March 4.

Marsha P. Johnson under construction on March 3.Photo by Kevin Duggan

Johnson was an advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS treatment and fought in the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, and died in 1992 at the age of 46.

Public input will be limited to the decorative features, and the State Parks Department has resumed construction work on the park’s infrastructure upgrades after a brief pause following the heated civic meeting earlier this month.

New designs show more greenspace on the northern concrete slab and allows for a new commemoration to Johnson.New York State Parks

Independently of the workshops, the agency continues construction to build a new park house with a classroom and restrooms, shrink the concrete slabs by 27,000 square feet to add more greenspace, improve stormwater drainage, install a new water line for maintenance, and install new wheelchair accessible pathways and cobblestones with a goal to wrap the project by June 1.

Most of the park will remain closed until then except for the north section and the dog run, which are accessible via the neighboring Bushwick Inlet Park.

Here’s the full schedule for the public workshops taking place virtually or at Marsha P. Johnson, 90 Kent Ave. at N. Eighth Street in Williamsburg:

Initial public listening session:

Wednesday, March 31: 10 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. Virtual. Zoom link here. Meeting ID: 957 8992 8808 Passcode: 519844

Saturday, April 3: 10 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. In person. 

Monday, April 5: 10 am to 1 pm and 3 to 7 pm. In person.

Public design review:

Tuesday, April 20: 10 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. In person.

Saturday, April 24: 10 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. In person.

Monday, April 26: 6 to 9 pm. Virtual.

Final public review:

Saturday, May 1: 10 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm.

Monday, May 3: 6 to 9 pm. Virtual.

For more information, call (518) 474-0456 or visit parks.ny.gov.