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J.J. Byrne Playground

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Washington Park In Brooklyn Is Dedicated With A Host Of New Improvements


Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

On December 3, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Member Bill de Blasio, City Council Member David Yassky, “Battle of New York” author Barnet Schechter, Old Stone House Executive Director Kim Maier, historical reenactors and second graders from P.S. 321 to celebrate new improvements and to rename J.J. Byrne Park as Washington Park in honor of its rich place in American history. Also in attendance were Borough Commissioner Julius Spiegel, playing the part of General George Washington, and Deputy Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey, playing the part of General Nathanael Greene.

“The site of Washington Park played a pivotal role in the Battle of Brooklyn at the dawn of the American Revolution and we honor its history with this renaming,” said Commissioner Benepe. “Its dedication coincides with many improvements and we are grateful to Boymelgreen Developers for funding and building a skate park, basketball courts, handball courts and a dog run with $2 million - at no cost to the taxpayers. Special thanks also to Council Members de Blasio and Yassky, Borough President Markowitz, and Mayor Bloomberg for providing over $2 million to build a multipurpose synthetic turf green. In addition, the park will continue to honor J.J. Byrne as its playground's namesake with a $1.3 million makeover currently in design.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony celebrates the completion of the first phase of the park, a project funded and implemented by Boymelgreen Developers at a value of $2 million. The reconstruction includes a new skate park, two new basketball courts, six handball courts, a new dog run, new fencing, gates, pavement and landscaping.

Officials also broke ground on the second phase of the park’s renovations funded with $1 million from Council Member de Blasio, $500,000 from Council Member Yassky, $500,000 from Borough President Markowitz and $83,000 from Mayor Bloomberg. This phase includes a new multipurpose synthetic turf green to be used for baseball, softball, soccer and community events, new fencing, landscaping and the creation of a plaza to open the view of the Old Stone House from 4th Avenue.

In August of 1776, the culmination of the Battle of Brooklyn took place at this site when General Washington’s Continental Army was surrounded and overwhelmed by British forces. This battle has two distinctions: it was both the first battle of the United States, subsequent to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and, with over 50,000 troops on both sides, it was the largest battle of the American Revolution. General Washington is believed to have said of the battles’ casualties, “Good God, what brave souls I must this day lose.”

This historic site has since played host to more lighthearted items of interest. It was known as Washington Park when it was home to the Brooklyn Baseball Club, the predecessor to the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Old Stone House served as the team’s clubhouse from 1883 to 1891. Ice skating was a popular attraction in the park during the second half of the 19th century. Each winter, an area of the park was intentionally flooded. This was the site of Axel Paulsen's skating distance record and his development of the famed Axel Jump. The site was then acquired by the Parks Department in 1926 and named for former Borough President J.J. Byrne in 1933. Byrne, who led the effort to reconstruct the Old Stone House, will remain the playground's namesake.

Originally built by Claes Arents Vechte in 1699, the Old Stone House was reconstructed from original stones near its original location. Today, the Old Stone House serves as an interpretive and educational center dedicated to Brooklyn history and its crucial role in the American Revolution. The house hosts a variety of education programs and community events, a program it plans to expand when Washington Park’s second phase is complete and the plaza area is expanded. The Old Stone House is owned by Parks & Recreation, operated by the Old Stone House of Brooklyn Inc., and is a member of the Historic House Trust.


QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

“When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.”

Edward R. Murrow
(1908 – 1965)

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