FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
NYC PARKS RE/NAMES 16 SITES IN HONOR OF THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN NYC
Mullaly Park & Recreation Center announced for 2022 renaming in honor of Rev. T. Wendell Foster--First African American City Councilmember who Represented the Bronx
Notables honored include: Lena Horne, Percy E. Sutton, Malcolm X, Kwame Ture
and Audre Lorde
Manhattan’s Bennett Park to be renamed in 2021
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, today joined Deputy Bronx Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden, New York State Senator Jose M. Serrano, New York State Assembly Member Amanda Septimo, New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, and former City Council Member, daughter of the late Reverend T. Wendell Foster, Helen Diane Foster, and Keisha Sutton James, granddaughter of Percy Sutton to officially celebrate the re/naming of 16 park spaces named in honor of the Black experience in New York City, memorializing that which is locally, nationally, historically relevant. The newly named spaces represent educators, Civil Rights leaders, pioneers in the LGBTQ+ community, novelists, playwrights, abolitionists and more. Honoring a commitment made in November to rename Mullaly Park and Recreation Center in the Bronx, the event was held at the park to showcase its planned new name for Rev. Foster--the site will officially be renamed in September 2022 in accordance with Parks policy of naming three years posthumous.
“Our parks and greenspaces are critical community spaces, and these renamings in honor of the Black experience are physical reminders of the contributions and legacies of Black New Yorkers across our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I thank NYC Parks for their commitment to maintaining and creating these beautiful green spaces for all New Yorkers to enjoy and for their tireless work on racial justice.”
“Black New Yorkers have long been leaders and changemakers across our city and the world. I am proud to stand with Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Silver as we rename New York City parks in their honor,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. “We hope these beautiful greenspaces invoke reverence and inspire current and future generations of New Yorkers to reflect upon the incredible Black folks who have changed the very fabric of our nation—for the better.”
“In the past year, we have named 28 park spaces in honor of the Black experience. It is our commitment to change in action,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “These greenspaces and park facilities are critical resources in the communities they serve and we want to ensure that they bear names that inspire pride, encourage meaningful discourse, and represent the people it serves. For years we heard pleas from the community to rename Mullaly Park, and we are proud today to give it a name that celebrates the legacy of a man who spent his life committed to peace and human service. As we look toward the future, parks like Reverend T. Wendell Foster Park will serve as beacons of hope for all people.”
“As our city works towards reopening after its sanctioned period of confinement, it’s a joy to see New Yorkers populating our parks and other greenspaces. Kudos are extended to NYC Parks for making the renaming of 16 new park spaces after notable Black icons an added lure and cause for celebration. My unwavering love and support of Prospect Park and its bandshell, now renamed, at my office’s suggestion, after the legendary actress, singer, civil rights activist and home-grown Brooklynite Lena Horne, will make it one of my much-anticipated points of re-entry this summer,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
“Recognizing the tremendous contributions made by those who have shaped the Bronx and its people, the new names being given to parks throughout our Borough will enlighten and inspire future generations to open new doors and reach for the stars,” said Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner.
“We are happy that the tireless work and commitment of our husband, father and grandfather, Rev. T. Wendell Foster, is being recognized and celebrated with the renaming of Mullaly Park after him,” said former City Council Member and daughter of the late Reverend T. Wendell Foster, Helen Diane Foster. “The Bronx and Highbridge was his home for over 55 years when he passed away at age 95 and he fought for this community up until his last days. We are thankful to the Mayor, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and of course, our family friend, Councilmember Vanessa Gibson, for ensuring that this renaming would happen. We look forward to celebrating at the renaming ceremony with his family, his church members, his community and all that loved him.”
“My grandfather poured his heart and soul into the village of Harlem. From representing Harlemites in court to representing Harlem in Albany, and from headquartering our first radio station on 125th Street and Lenox to saving the Apollo Theater from becoming a church- and losing all of that rich history- he was devoted to his beloved home. He would be elated to know that his legacy will continue to live on through a place where children will play and be free, and families will gather and create memories. On behalf of the Sutton family, thank you for this wonderful honor,” said Keisha Sutton-James, Sutton’s granddaughter.
The Ifill family is truly grateful that the NYC Parks Department is recognizing our sister, cousin, aunt Gwen by renaming and refurbishing Railroad Park in her honor. In doing so, you celebrate the life and legacy of one of Queens’ most accomplished daughters. In a green space, dedicated to recreation and safety, generations of families and their children can be refreshed, much in the way Gwen provided haven for truth seekers and those who were perplexed and looking for answers. In this way, her spirit as well as her example lives on!, said Bert Ifill, brother of Gwen Ifill.
Last June, the agency pledged to continue to demonstrate how it stands in solidarity with the Black community in its fight to combat systemic racism. Since then, Parks has named 28 parks spaces in honor of the Black experience to help acknowledge the legacies of these Black Americans; encourage discourse about their contributions, and work to make the park system more diverse and reflective of the people it serves.
The newly named park spaces feature some of the most recognizable names in African American history, including Malcolm X and Lorraine Hansberry; local community leaders like Rev. Foster, who was the first Black City Council Member to represent the Bronx, and the musicians who represent the historic Addisleigh neighborhood in Queens. All of these influential people and places add richness to these parks and the surrounding communities.
A complete list of parks/facilities and background are as follows:
54th Street Recreation Center now Constance Baker Motley Recreation Center
Located in the heart of midtown, the 54th Street Recreation Center has been a community staple for years. Now, its name has been formally changed in honor of Constance Baker Motley. Motley, born in 1921, was the first African American woman to become a federal judge. She was a leading jurist and legal advocate during the Civil Rights movement, and the first Black woman to serve as Manhattan Borough President.
Riverside Park at 150th Street now Ralph Ellison Plaza
A long-time resident of West Harlem, Ralph Ellison was a leading novelist, literary critic and scholar best known for his novel Invisible Man. The newly named plaza was already home to a granite block bearing Ellison’s name in honor of his legacy.
Harlem Lane Playground now Percy E. Sutton Playground
Percy Sutton was an activist and lawyer during the Civil Rights movement; among his clients he represented Malcolm X. He was also a prominent black politician and businessman who served as Manhattan Borough President for more than a decade from 1966 -1977. Percy Sutton playground is located along the scenic Harlem River Drive.
Hell’s Kitchen Park now Lorraine Hansberry Park
Lorraine Hansberry was a playwright and writer who authored “A Raisin in the Sun” and was the first African American female to have a play performed on Broadway. The newly renamed park first opened in 1979 after the community advocated for more recreational space.
Prospect Park Bandshell now Lena Horne Bandshell
With a strong endorsement from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the historic concert venue has been renamed in honor of Lena Horne. Horne was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and was a trailblazing dancer, actress and singer in theater, film and television. She was also active on issues of social justice and civil rights.
Underhill Playground now James Forten Playground
James Forten was a prominent abolitionist and vice president of the Anti-Slavery Society. During the Revolutionary War, he was temporarily imprisoned at Brooklyn’s Wallabout Bay near what is today the Navy Yard.
Middleton Playground now Sarah J.S. Tompkins Garnet Playground
A leading educator and suffragist, Sarah J.S. Tompkins Garnet was the first Black female principal in the New York City public schools. The playground located in Williamsburg features handball courts, play equipment, and swings. The park also has basketball courts, which are slated for a full reconstruction and are currently in the design phase of the capital process.
Mullaly Park and Recreation Center will soon be Rev. T. Wendell Foster Park & Recreation Center
In response to community requests, Parks plans to formally rename Mullaly Park in honor of Rev. T. Wendell Foster in September 2022 -- in accordance with Parks’ policy of naming three years posthumous. Rev. Foster was the pastor of the Christ Church in Morrisania. He was the first black representative from the Bronx in the City Council, where he championed low-income housing and served as long-time chair of the Parks Committee.
St. Mary’s Amphitheater now Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater
Gil Scott-Heron was a pioneering soul and jazz poet, musician, and author. As a young man he attended DeWitt Clinton High School and the Fieldston School in the Bronx. Currently, the renamed amphitheater along with the plaza, pathways and lighting in this area of St. Mary's Park is being renovated through the Anchor Parks Initiative, and the project is slated for completion in the coming fall.
West Bronx Recreation Center now Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) Recreation Center
Born Stokeley Carmichael, Kwame Ture, graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, and was a prominent activist and organizer during the Civil Rights era and leader in the Black Power movement.
Morris Garden is now Mabel Hampton Garden
Mabel Hampton was a prominent lesbian activist and dancer during the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a philanthropist and lived with her long-time partner Lillian Foster for decades on 169th Street in the Bronx.
The Oval in St. Albans Park now Musician’s Oval
The oval is named in honor of the numerous notable African Americans and Black luminaries in the jazz world including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Lena Horne. They, among other prominent Black figures, like baseball legends Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, settled in the Addisleigh neighborhood-- an enclave in the St. Albans area of western Queens that is today a landmarked historic district.
Railroad Park now Gwen Ifill Park
Gwen Ifill was born in Jamaica, Queens, and was a leading journalist, television broadcaster, and author. She was the first African American woman to anchor a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program, Washington Week in Review. Later, she co-anchored PBS NewsHour. Gwen Ifill Park is currently undeveloped and there is $21 million in Capital funding to build out this greenspace.
Flushing Bay Promenade now Malcolm X Promenade
This scenic promenade located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is now named in honor of leading Civil Rights activist, African American Muslim leader, and spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X. At the time of his assassination, Malcolm X lived with his family in East Elmhurst, Queens.
Carlton Park now Harris Brothers Park
Located at Drumgoole Road West, the formerly named Carlton Park is now named in honor of brothers Moses and Sylas Harris. Moses and Sylas Harris were brothers and freed Black farmers who settled the community in southern Staten Island known as Harrisville or Sandy Ground. Last year, Parks renamed Fairview Park the Sany Grounds Woods in honor of the free black settlement where the Harris brothers lived.
Silver Lake Park will now feature Audre Lorde Walk
Audre Lorde was a Black lesbian feminist, activist and writer. She lived on Staten Island from 1972-1987, and at the time of her death she was the New York State poet laureate.
Parks announced its first tranche of namings in June 2020 when the agency created Juneteenth Grove at Cadman Plaza Park. Since then, 28 green spaces have been renamed across all five boroughs, including the Ted Corbitt Loop in Central Park and Ella Fitzgerald Playground in Queens.
Parks is committed to re/name more sites, representing other underrepresented, protected classes, and announces its intent to rename Bennett Park in Manhattan, in response to community requests.
In the same vein as the first round of namings, the agency will install specially designed consolidated signs in the colors of the Pan-African flag--red, black and green--at the renamed parks and facilities. These signs will be installed by the end of August 2021.