Floyd Patterson Ballfields
Christopher Ave., Riverdale Ave., Newport St., Mother Gaston Blvd.
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Floyd Patterson Field
This park honors Floyd Patterson (1935-2006), a boxing legend who was the world heavyweight champion for the periods 1956-59 and 1960-62. Patterson was born in Waco, North Carolina and moved with his family to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn when he was a small child. While attending the Wiltwyck School for Boys in Esopus, New York, Patterson learned how to box. In 1952, he won nine amateur boxing crowns, including the Olympic middleweight gold medal at the summer games in Helsinki, Finland.
Patterson began his professional career in December 1953 with a win against Dick Wagner. Three years later, Patterson knocked out heavyweight titleholder Archie Moore in the fifth round and became what was then the youngest champion ever at the age of 21. Patterson lost the belt to Ingemar Johansson on June 26, 1959 but regained the title in a rematch with Johansson a year later. This time Patterson’s reign lasted until September 25, 1962 when he lost to Sonny Liston.
Patterson’s last fight was in 1972, when he was knocked out by Muhammad Ali. After 19 years of professional boxing, Floyd Patterson retired at 37 with a career record of 55 wins, eight losses, one draw and 40 knockouts. After retiring from the ring, Patterson worked with many charitable organizations and became a member of the New York State Athletic Commission, serving as one of the state’s three boxing commissioners. Patterson died in New Paltz, New York in 2006.
In 1981, Brooklyn Councilmen Enoch Williams and Abraham Gerges sponsored a local law to name this parkland after the boxing great. Located in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, Floyd Patterson Field is surrounded by more than 5,000 units of public housing. At the dedication ceremonies in June 1981, Mayor Edward I. Koch noted that Patterson had devoted much of his post-boxing life working with young people. “It is especially meaningful, therefore, that this park be named in his honor,” Koch said, “It will provide recreational enjoyment for the residents of the many housing developments in the area.”
The surrounding neighborhood of Brownsville was named by real estate developer Charles S. Brown who, in 1865, built 250 frame houses in the area and put them up for sale. Further development of the neighborhood came slowly. Several garment makers opened businesses in the area towards the end of the century. As significant numbers of Jews moved here from the Lower East Side, the neighborhood became a largely Jewish enclave. In 1889, the Fulton Avenue elevated railway opened, and tenements and two-family houses sprouted up along the train tracks. In the first few decades of the twentieth century, Brownsville was known as a center of labor radicalism, and socialists were elected to the state assembly from 1915 to 1921. Famous residents who grew up in Brownsville include actor Danny Kaye, composer Aaron Copeland, and heavyweight boxing champions Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe.
This park property was acquired by the City in the early 1970s as part of an urban renewal program. In 1981, the land was assigned to Parks by the Department of General Services, and was developed with Federal Community Development funds. A large sod area surrounded by a 16-foot tall fence is used for football, soccer, and baseball games. In addition, there is a 150-seat concrete amphitheater on the Newport Street end which hosts live performances. In 1997, the ball fields received an $885,000 reconstruction funded by Council Member Priscilla A. Wooten. Floyd Patterson Field bears the name of a champion, and provides a place for future champions to play and to grow.