The Renaming of Penn and Fountain Parks


On Wednesday, September 5th, Governor Andrew Cuomo officially signed a decree renaming Penn and Fountain Parks after Brooklynite and trailblazer, Shirley Chisholm (who was both the first African-American Congresswoman and the first African-American woman to run for President) along with information about his $1.4 Billion Vital Brooklyn Initiative.

“Our state parks are community treasures, and this new park trans-forms what was once landfill into exquisite open space, waterfront access and outdoor recreation for Brooklyn,” Cuomo said. “We need a name that says to young people, great people have come from the very place that you have come from. We need a model that says, leader-ship and achievement and service, and we have a beautiful model that grew up just blocks from here. A pioneer, an example of overcoming obstacles, racial obstacles, gender obstacles, class obstacles, and that is Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. And we’ll name this park, a state park, for Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm,” he said during a press conference a top of a pier in Fountain Park.

Considered the largest state park in New York City, the 407-acre park is filled with 10 miles of trails, and 3.5 miles of waterfront that has been an unattainable staple in the East New York community since its transformation from a landfill to an oasis of greenery. Organizations like Friends of Penn and Fountain Parks often co-hosted annual guided tours with the Department of Environmental Protection. How-ever, after the passing of its president, Lee Shelley, Friends of Penn and Fountain Parks stopped conducting tours and further concentrated on getting politicians on board to open the park to the public.

Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Rose Harvey, announced that this grass-land will be open for all to enjoy by the summer of 2019. There will be environmental informational pro-grams that invite all to go hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and other fun outdoor activities.

Cuomo ended the conference by signing the renaming and stating, “That’s what Vital Brooklyn is; programs to bring the kids from public schools to do oyster reefs, and to breed clams, and to open their minds to a whole different reality. Literally look at the horizon, look across the water, and to dream. To get away from the den-sity, to get away from the noise, to get away from the frenzy and to find a little peace. Yes, when you’re doing community development, when you’re helping people, there’s a spiritual component to it, there’s a psychological component to it. Walt Whitman, a Brooklyn boy, said, ‘Keep your face always towards the sunshine, and the shadows will fall behind you.’”

Photos by Amanda Moses