This small park in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg is dedicated to the memory of Private Louis Sobel, a Brooklyn native and veteran of World War I. Sobel was killed in action at the Second Battle of the Marne on July 18, 1918. At the time of this park’s dedication on May 15, 1938, it was the first public space in New York City to be named for a Jewish war hero.
Louis Sobel lived in Brooklyn until the outbreak of the war, when he left to go overseas with the Seventh Regiment Infantry in the Third Division. His was one of nine U.S. divisions fighting in the Second Battle of the Marne, a World War I battle considered by many to mark a key turning point in the war. At the time of Sobel’s death, his regiment, which had previously been involved in mostly defensive operations, was under the command of Major General Joseph T. Dickman. The Battle took place in the Aisne-Marne Sector of the Western Front, located 75 miles northeast of Paris.
This Battle turned the tide of the war; it began with the final German offensive, and quickly followed with the first Allied victory of 1918. The American forces, with over 250,000 men, were all fighting under French command and played important roles both in the initial defense and the later advances. Louis Sobel was one of the 30,000 men killed or wounded at the Second Battle of Marne. United States casualties on such a large scale are usually associated with many of the battles in the World War I.
Sobel was killed on the fourth day of the battle. On the fateful day of his death, French armies and four American divisions attacked from the west with tanks, leading a rapid advance on German forces. Although the tactic ultimately lead to victory, Private Sobel became one of the nearly 200,000 U.S. casualties in World War I, as well as one of 14,000 Jewish casualties.
The Board of Aldermen (predecessor of the City Council) officially named this park in honor of Louis Sobel on October 4, 1937. For the dedication, on May 15, 1938, several hundred members of veteran’s organizations paraded through Brooklyn. They marched a mile and a half through Williamsburg before reaching the flag draped stand within sight of Washington Plaza.
The triangle is located at Division and Lee Avenues, near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The park features London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), grass, and a sign that acknowledges renovations done in 1988, by the New York City Office of Business Development through the efforts of the Opportunity Development Association, a local minority business development center which provides financial and administrative assistance to small business entrepreneurs.