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The Daily Plant : Thursday, May 17, 2012

Colonial Themed Celebration Officially Opens J.J. Byrne Playground


Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

On May 11, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey joined Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, and Executive Director of the Old Stone House Kim Maier to cut the ribbon on the reconstruction of J.J. Byrne Playground in Washington Park.

Dressing in colonial garb, in commemoration of this site which was the site of the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn, were Commissioner Jeffrey, Borough President Markowitz, Council Members Lander and Levin, Brooklyn Team Leader David Martin, Brooklyn Director of Public Services Edwin Vargas, and Brooklyn Chief of Staff Martin Maher.

“We are thrilled to cut the ribbon on J.J. Byrne Playground, representing the third phase of investment in Washington Park,” said Commissioner Jeffrey. “The site’s significance in American history is complemented by its role today as a destination for fun and education in the Park Slope community and beyond.”

Funded by generous allocations of $3.25 million from Council Member Levin, $1.63 million from Council Member Lander, $500,000 from Borough President Markowitz, $100,000 from Assembly Member Joan Millman, and $395,000 from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the reconstruction of J.J. Byrne Playground is the third phase of renovations to Washington Park. The new playground includes equipment suitable for both toddlers and pre-teens and ample room for free play. The project was designed by Parks Landscape Architect Patricia Clark.

The playground design, including natural stone and rustic pavement, is respectful of the adjacent Old Stone House, the site at which the Battle of Brooklyn culminated in August 1776. Though the building was demolished around 1897, its foundations were rediscovered in 1930, at which time Borough President Byrne ordered its reconstruction from the original brick. It was completed in 1934 as a park office and comfort station.

In 2008, Parks cut the ribbon on the first phase of renovations in Washington Park, which included a new skate park, two new basketball courts, eight handball courts, and a new dog run. In 2009, in a second phase of renovations, the park received a multipurpose synthetic turf field, and a plaza was created to open the view of the Old Stone House from 4th Avenue.

This playground is named after James J. Byrne, whose career in service to Brooklyn began when he was appointed chief clerk of the Bureau of Public Buildings (1907-08) and later Brooklyn Commissioner of Public Works (1924-26). When Brooklyn Borough President Joseph A. Guider died in office in September 1926, Byrne was selected to complete the term. He was elected in 1929. J.J. Byrne Park was acquired by Parks in 1926 and was named for Byrne by the Board of Aldermen in 1933. The Old Stone House of Gowanus is the reconstruction of the Vechte-Cortelyou house, originally built by Claes Arents Vechte in 1699. Though the building was demolished around 1897, its foundations were rediscovered in 1930, at which time Borough President Byrne ordered its reconstruction from the original brick. It was completed in 1934 as a park office and comfort station.


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