Daily Plant Masthead

Volume XXVI, Number 5415
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ground Is Broken On J.J. Byrne Playground

Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

On Tuesday, May 10, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, and Executive Director of the Old Stone House Kim Maier, to break ground on the reconstruction of J.J. Byrne Playground in Brooklyn’s Washington Park. The project will maximize play while respecting and enhancing the presence of the Old Stone House, as well as meeting Parks Department sustainability objectives.

Funded by generous allocations from Council Members Brad Lander ($1.627 million) and Stephen Levin ($1.627 million), Borough President Marty Markowitz ($500,000) and Mayor Bloomberg ($225,000) as well as a state grant attained by Assembly Member Joan Millman ($100,000), the new playground is being redesigned and rebuilt with a colonial theme, which complements the Old Stone House that it shares the park with. The design provided separate areas for different age groups, and features a new spray shower, which suggests a mill stream, drinking fountains, swings, new fencing, and landscaping throughout the park. The playground will also be made wheelchair accessible.

The playground is also being built to meet the Parks Department’s sustainability objectives, including the use of local materials. A replication of the retaining walls of the original Old Stone House will be constructed from large squared granite which has been quarried locally, less than 500 miles from New York City. In addition, all pavement and surfacing throughout the site will be light in color to reduce the heat gain in the playground, and all proposed materials and products have been selected to increase the site’s durability and longevity. The project was designed by Parks Landscape Architect Patricia Clark.

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. Later on, 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.


“The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.”

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(1948 - )

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