This park and the neighboring playground, east of the BMT Brighton Beach transit line, are named for postmaster William E. Kelly (1872-1929). Born in Brooklyn, Kelly attended P.S. 9, P.S. 41, and evening high school. After graduating with honors, he worked as an errand boy at Harper Brothers publishers. He was also an amateur boxer. In 1894 Kelly was hired by the Kings County post office, then the sixth largest in the nation. He rose through the ranks. He was president of the National Letter Carriers Association from 1907 to 1913. He served as superintendent and assistant to the postmaster before President Woodrow Wilson appointed him as county postmaster. Kelly served in this position from March 1914 to December 1915. Kelly resigned as postmaster to serve as Clerk of Kings County, a public office, which he held from January 1916 until his death on September 20, 1929.
Kelly’s funeral at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church in Brooklyn was attended by more than 10,000 mourners; the 250 honorary pallbearers included former Governor Alfred E. Smith and Mayor James J. Walker. In 1930 a memorial to the outstanding postmaster was dedicated in William E. Kelly Park. The monument consists of a small obelisk of Barre granite with a bronze relief portrait of Kelly sculpted by L. N. Anderson set within the stone.
Kelly’s daughter-in-law, Edna Flannery Kelly (1906–1997), was elected a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party in Kings County from the 18th Assembly District, in 1944, 1946, and 1948. In 1949, she won a special election to the second session of the 81st Congress, filling the vacancy in the 10th Congressional District following the death of Representative Andrew L. Somers. She was reelected nine times and served in the U.S. House of Representatives until January 3, 1969. The sole woman in the New York delegation, Representative Kelly was active both in foreign affairs and domestic social policy. An expert on the Soviet Bloc, she rose to be the third-ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Edna Kelly was an active advocate for working families calling for tax deductions for child care, and in addition, is credited with passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which established the principle of equal pay for equal work for women. Edna Kelly was married to Edward L. Kelly, who was a lawyer and justice of the City Court of New York prior to his death in 1942.
The original tract of land for this park, to the west of the train tracks, was condemned in 1889 and 1906 for use as a pumping station. In 1924 the site was conveyed to the Brooklyn Parks Department for use as a recreational area. It was improved with tennis courts in the late 1920s, and named William E. Kelly Park by the Board of Aldermen in 1929. In the spring of 1940, the park was expanded and improved, becoming the 324th playground to be newly built or renovated during the administration of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. An extensive recreation area, built by Works Projects Administration labor, included new baseball diamonds and tennis courts (adaptable for ice-skating after flooding and freezing), shuffleboard and volleyball courts, game tables, horseshoe pits, and children’s play structures.
Additional park parcels to the east of the train tracks were acquired in 1937 and 1944, but some of this land was transferred to the Board of Education in 1953 as recreational space for the new P.S. 255 (later renamed the Barbara Reing School). A series of renovations to the park in 1977, 1983, 1988, and 1990 upgraded the play facilities, tennis courts and the comfort station.
In 1998 Council Member (now U.S. Representative) Anthony Weiner funded an extensive capital renovation, at a cost of $630,000. The park improvements, designed by Storch Associates, include play equipment, tot swings, a new planting grove, game tables, repaved paths, new fences, World’s Fair benches, improved basketball and handball courts, a directional compass and a cast-concrete bear—in acknowledgment of the many Russian immigrants who have settled in the vicinity. The project also included the cleaning and conservation of the Kelly monument and the installation of a Gametime Parcourse Fitcenter, an exercise circuit intended to promote cardiovascular health among park patrons.
William E. Kelly Details
- Sculptor: L.N. Anderson
- Description: Portrait plaque, stele
- Materials: Bronze and Barre granite
- Dimensions: H: 60" W: 50" D: 32"; Plaque Diameter:12 ¼"
- Dedicated: 1930
- Donor: Friends
- Inscription: WILLIAM E. KELLY / BORN: / OCTOBER 10, 1872 / LETTER CARRIER: MAY 4, 1893 - MARCH 15, 1914 / POSTMASTER: / MARCH 16, 1914 - DECEMBER 2, 1915 / COUNTY CLERK KINGS COUNTY: / JANUARY 1, 1916 - SEPTEMBER 20, 1929 / HONORED, RESPECTED AND LOVED BY ALL / ERECTED BY HIS FRIENDS./