Callahan & Kelly Park
This park, bounded by Fulton and Truxton Streets, Van Sinderen Avenue, and the Eastern Parkway Extension, was named for two local soldiers who died in World War I, William E. Callahan and Edward E. Kelly.
Callahan, who lived nearby at 98 Hinsdale Street, was a Corporal in Company L of the 305th Infantry and was killed in action at the Battle of the Argonne on October 2, 1918. Kelly, who also lived only blocks away at 1330 Herkimer Street, was a Private in Company G of the 23rd Infantry, and later the 106th Infantry, and was killed in action at the Battle of Dickie Bush Farm on September 2, 1918. Kelly and Callahan were two of the more than 116,000 American men killed in World War I.
Callahan & Kelly Park lies at the northern edge of the neighborhood of Brownsville, named for real estate speculators Charles S. and Harietta C. Brown who began buying land in 1865 and eventually built 250 cottages there. First known as Brown’s Village, the initial settlement of homes and shops was a remote area surrounded only by dairy farms and meadows. By the late 19th century, the area was known as Brownsville.
The opening of the Fulton Street elevated railway in 1889 and the completion of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 improved transportation from Brooklyn to Manhattan and made commuting simpler. New York City developer Aaron Kaplan built dozens of tenements here to provide housing for garment workers on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The neighborhood soon overflowed with immigrant families, rapidly making its bucolic past a distant memory. By 1926, when over 300,000 of the 400,000 people in the neighborhood were Jewish, many of them having escaped persecution in Poland and Russia, Brownsville was known as the “Jerusalem of America.”
The city acquired the title for this land in 1938, and Local Law 115 of 1939 named it as a World War I memorial site. Parks received the land from the city in 1945, with some portions set aside for sewers, subways, and railroads. A subway vent still stands in the park today.
Handball courts with floodlights for night use, a baseball diamond, timberform climbing equipment, slides, a basketball court and picnic tables make Callahan & Kelly Park an invaluable asset to the community. Between 2004 and 2006 Parks invested $500,000 in Callahan & Kelly Park. With its towering Pin oaks (Quercus palustris) and Littleleaf linden trees (Tilia cordata), Callahan & Kelly Park is a peaceful oasis in the midst of a neighborhood bustling with energy.