This park honors legislator and judge Harold W. Cohn (1913-1974). At age 31, Cohn saw active duty during World War II throughout Europe. He helped push back the Nazi counter-offensive at the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944-January 31, 1945) as a member of the Fighting 69th Rainbow Division. After the war, he became an active member of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint communities, serving as a New York State assemblyman (1959-1968), chairman of the Motor Vehicles Committee, and a New York civil court judge.
Located at the intersection of Bedford and Division Avenues, this square lies in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. In the early 19th century, Williamsburg became a center for waterfront industry. The 1903 opening of the Williamsburg Bridge, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, strengthened the neighborhood’s role as a vital hub of commerce and industry for New York City. A renewed wave of immigration prior to World War I (1914-1918), swelled the neighborhood’s population. Soon waterfront flats and six-story tenements replaced the prior century’s family brownstones. During the 1930s and 1940s, Williamsburg also became a haven to European Jews trying to escape Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism. In the 1950s, private tenements gave way to large public housing complexes, as Caribbean and Latin American immigrants merged with the long-standing communities of Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Italian, German and Irish families.
The City of Brooklyn acquired this property in 1859. The property was home to a marble urn-shaped fountain, which commemorated the introduction of Ridgewood’s water supply into Williamsburg and was adorned with cast-iron figures and decorative ornamentation. After being repaired several times, the eroded fountain was finally removed in 1953.
In 1922, the Board of Alderman named this site “Joseph A. Wynn Circle” after a Manhattan-born resident who served as a machine gunner and died in World War I. A bronze plaque commemorating Joseph Wynn’s service for the Loyola Council of the Knights of Columbus was added, along with a flagpole and a captured 77MM German cannon. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Joseph A. Wynn Post (No. 260) donated this historic piece “in memory of the local men who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War 1917-1918.” During the World War II metal shortage, the cannon was removed for scrap as part of the war effort.
In 1985 the City Council renamed the park “Harold W. Cohn Memorial Square” in memory of the judge’s decades of public service. The Friends of Cohn Park commissioned a monument in 1991, sculpted by Stanislaw Lutistanski, in Cohn’s memory.
Harold W. Cohn Memorial Details
- Sculptor: Stanislaw Lutostanski
- Description: Stele, plaque with bas-relief
- Materials: North Carolina pink Lawlor stone, bronze
- Dimensions: Stele H: 6'7" W: 1'8" D: 8"; Plaque H: 3' W: 10" D: 1½"
- Cast: circa 1991
- Dedicated: circa 1991
- Foundry: Bedi-Makky Art Foundry Corp.
- Donor: Friends of Cohn Square
- Inscription: HON. HAROLD W. COHN / 1913-1974 / STATE ASSEMBLYMAN 1958-1969 / CIVIL AND ACTING / SUPREME COURT JUDGE 1969-1974 / A GREAT HUMANITARIAN / RESPONSIBLE FOR THE / BETTERMENT OF THE / QUALITY OF LIFE / FOR THE CITIZENS OF / WILLIAMSBURG / GREENPOINT / FORT GREENE / OCTOVBER 28, 1992 /