Marcy Green North
William Learned Marcy (1786-1857) was a lawyer, soldier, and statesman who made his mark in politics in both local and national arenas. Marcy was born in Southbridge, Massachusetts, and went on to attend Brown University. He moved to Troy, New York and opened a law office in 1811, but left Troy to serve as a United States captain in the War of 1812. After the war, he returned to Troy to continue his practice and take up politics. He joined the Democratic Party as a supporter of then-State Senator Martin Van Buren, and became a leading member of the Albany Regency, a state party machine. He was state comptroller from 1823 until 1829, when he was appointed to the state supreme court. Marcy was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1831, and there had another opportunity to support Van Buren. In 1832, Van Buren was nominated as a minister to Britain by President Andrew Jackson. The nomination was contested by those opposed to Jackson’s system of political patronage, but Marcy famously declared that “to the victor belongs the spoils of the enemy,” meaning that the victorious Jackson – who had defeated John Quincy Adams in 1828 – had a right to do as he pleased with his influence. Jackson’s system of patronage was known thereafter as the “spoils system.”
Marcy was elected governor of New York in 1833 and left the Senate. The term of governor was then only two years long, and Marcy was elected three times, the last ending in 1839. During his tenure, Marcy oversaw the construction of the Erie Canal and resolved the boundary dispute with New Jersey. After he left office, he became a leader of the “Hunkers,” the conservative part of the New York Democratic Party that disagreed with the vocally anti-slavery “Barnburner” segment of the party, led ironically, by Van Buren.
Marcy was Secretary of War under President James Knox Polk from 1845 until 1849, guiding the United States through the Mexican War in 1848. He was appointed in what was to be his last post in 1853: Secretary of State to President Franklin Pierce. Marcy’s most noted accomplishment as secretary was the negotiation of the Gadsden Purchase, which allowed the United States to buy a sizeable territory from Mexico that later became part of both Arizona and New Mexico. Marcy died in office on July 4, 1857.
Marcy Avenue was mapped from Fulton Avenue to Flushing Avenue in 1835. In 1850, it opened between Quincy and DeKalb Avenues, and was finished between Fulton and Halsey Avenues in 1852. One hundred years later, the city bought this property as part of the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or BQE. Built under the direction of Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Chairman (TBTA) Robert Moses (1888-1981) between 1946 and 1964, the BQE cost $137 million dollars to complete. Federal, state, and municipal funds were all necessary for the construction of the massive six-lane, 11.7 mile-long expressway. Despite its high cost, the BQE was intended not only to relieve congestion on local streets, but also to aid industry and business by shortening transportation time between the boroughs. After repeated rehabilitation attempts in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the BQE will receive a $240 million comprehensive reconstruction from the New York State Department of Transportation, scheduled to be completed in 2004.
In addition to the TBTA and several other city and state posts, Moses was Parks Commissioner from 1934 until 1960. Combining his roles with the TBTA and Parks, Moses created a series of small parks to add more green space to the city and to serve as a buffer between the busy expressway and the neighborhood. Marcy Green North is one of these parks, as are nearby Marcy Green Center and Marcy Green South, and all are situated on Marcy Avenue between South Third and South Fifth Streets. New York City has five parks named after William Learned Marcy. Beyond the three Marcy Greens are the Marcy Houses Playground on Myrtle, Nostrand, and Marcy Avenues, and Marcy Park South, bounded by Division Avenue, Marcy Avenue, and South Ninth Streets. All five Marcy parks are located in Brooklyn.
In 1998, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani allocated $55,846 to improve the sidewalks, paths, and pavement of Marcy Green North. In addition to creating a buffer for the expressway, the park offers grass and benches. Since some of Marcy’s major accomplishments were resolving border disputes and acquiring land, it is appropriate that a park bearing his name helps improve the border between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the surrounding community.