Dr. Ronald McNair Park

Dr. Ronald E. McNair Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair (1950-1986), the second African-American astronaut to travel into space, was a distinguished physicist and astronaut who perished in the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.  He was born and raised in Lake City, South Carolina and received a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. After working as a physicist for Hughes Research Laboratories, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration chose him as a candidate for astronaut in 1978.  In 1984, Dr. McNair made his first flight into space as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger.  His life was cut short on his next mission, when the Challenger exploded shortly after take-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 28, 1986.  He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004.

A public park first opened on this site in 1905, but the park did not take its current shape until 1911.  McKim, Mead and White, the famous architects who designed the Brooklyn Museum, had urged that this property be claimed as parkland in order to preserve the open space east of the museum. In 1926, the park was named for Joseph A. Guider (1870-1926), who died while serving as Brooklyn Borough President. This park was renamed for Dr. McNair in 1986. A monument to Guider still stands in the park, and another park on Coney Island Avenue is also named for him.

NYC Parks and the Department of Cultural Affairs commissioned a bronze portrait sculpture of the astronaut set in red Missouri granite by Brooklyn artist Ogundipe Fayomi. It was installed in 1994. It quotes Dr. McNair: “My wish is that we would allow this planet to be the beautiful oasis that she is, and allow ourselves to live more in the peace she generates.”

Directions to Dr. Ronald McNair Park

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