A colorful entrance, at Exit 14 – Pennsylvania Avenue, off the Belt Parkway, in Brooklyn, beckons residents to the newly constructed Shirley Chisholm State Park, opened on July 1.
A towering mural of Chisholm, the late, first African-American woman to join the New York State Assembly - is painted on a building at the right of the entrance of the Park in honor of the gutsy woman of Barbadian roots, who was born in Brooklyn on Nov. 30, 1924,
The park, a former landfill above Pennsylvania and Fountain avenues used by the NY City Department of Sanitation from 1956 to 1983, is now a beautiful green space, much to the pleasure of residents, who have access to 10 miles of biking and hiking trails.
A Bike Library with loaner bikes for patrons of all ages is located at the bottom of the hill, next to a picnic area, overlooking the water. The main trail with more seating areas and an opportunity for fishing in the bay, leads to the Penn Pier at the end of the park.
Park Director, Andrew Williams, in a brief interview told Caribbean Life, that the expansive park dedicated to Chisholm, who fought to expand the Food Stamps Program and created the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, is just over 100 acres.
Chisholm, who was famous for quotes such as: “Service is the rent you pay for living on this earth,” “We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves,” and ”I am, and always will be a catalyst for change,” among many others, received the honor, that Williams said will continue when the park is extended, on 300 acres of land on the other side of the waterfront. The estimated completion date is fall, 2019.
The park is adorned with white park benches, covered by colorful umbrellas for relaxing, and picnicking. Barbequing is prohibited on park grounds. He also noted, that the waterfront is off-limits for swimming at all times, during the daylong access to the park, that opens at 9 am. The last entry is at 8 pm and closing time is 9 pm.
The park has more than 80 car park spaces, to give patrons the opportunity to drive into the park via the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance, and walk along the trails, which leads to Penn Pier.
He said an environmental education program, will include, fishing, guided bird walks, and talks about Jamaica Bay, pointing out, that different basins along the way will allow patrons to stop and picnic at tables in the park.
Chisholm, who graduated from Brooklyn Girls’ School in 1942, and Brooklyn College cum laude in 1946, became a teacher while finishing her MA in Early Childhood Education at Columbia University.
She would later join the Democratic Party Club in the Borough to fight for gender and racial inequality. She won a seat in Congress, and fought for domestic workers’ rights, increased funding for education and health care maternity rights for teachers, and for citizens to have access to childcare.
The park was constructed in partnership with the Office of Governor of the New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, the NY State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, the New York State Department of Transportation, Empire State Department Corporation, and others.