This playground, located in Cooper Park on the outskirts of the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, honors Margaret Carnegie (1910-1993), a leading advocate for public housing. Throughout her adult life, she worked for the basic necessities of a strong neighborhood: public housing, the strengthening of family relations and better quality of life for seniors. Bounded by Maspeth and Morgan Avenues, and Olive and Sharon Streets, this parkland lies near the headwaters of Newtown Creek.
Margaret Carnegie was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, on April 27, 1910. She moved to New York in 1920 where she attended the Florence Garnett Training School for Girls, Junior High School 136, and Morris High School in the Bronx. In 1953, Carnegie moved to the recently built Cooper Park Houses. For the next forty years of her life, she became deeply involved in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg community. Carnegie had a special interest in improving the livelihood of seniors. She worked for better housing and safety for the elderly, as well as activities for their mental and physical health. She is credited with bringing ‘Grandparents Day’ (first Sunday after Labor Day) to New York. Grandparents Avenue, located along a section of Kingsland Avenue, earned its name in recognition of her work. Shortly before her death in June of 1993, this playground was renamed in her honor.
Carnegie was an outstanding community leader who succeeded in bridging differences between ethnic groups in the Greenpoint–Williamsburg area. Her involvement in several neighborhood organizations throughout her life made this achievement possible. She was part of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women, the Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Corporation, the Council for the Aging, the Williamsburg Greenpoint Independent Democrats, and the Devoe Street Baptist Church. She was founder and chaplain of the Cooper Park Senior Citizens Organization and served as president of the Grandparent Organization Inc.
Margaret Carnegie frequented Cooper Park and regularly participated in poetry readings. She believed that through poetry she could encourage her neighborhood to improve their conditions, both as individuals and as a community. In the documentary film Metropolitan Avenue, she appears on her birthday reciting Douglas Malloch’s poem “Be The Best Of Whatever You Are”, of which this is an excerpt:
If you can’t be a pine on top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley --- but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
…it isn’t by size that you win or you fail ---
Be the best of whatever you are!