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J W Person Square

Person Square

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

This square honors veteran Joseph Walter Person (1892-1918), a Brooklyn native who lived in Borough Park until he joined the United States Navy in World War I (1914-1918). Person, who served as a pay clerk, died of pneumonia at the age of 26 just weeks before the end of the war. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, a Roman Catholic cemetery built on land owned by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in the mid-19th century and considered to be – at 365 acres – the largest cemetery in New York City. Joseph Person is also the namesake of one of the oldest posts of the American Legion, on nearby Vanderbilt Avenue.

Person Square is located a few blocks from Fort Greene Park, named for the local Revolutionary War (1776-1783) fort whose construction in 1776 was supervised by American Major General Nathanael Greene (1742-1786). Greene built Fort Putnam (the original name of Fort Greene) on the high ground now occupied by nearby Fort Greene Park. Although the Continental Army was defeated at the Battle of Long Island in August 1776 and forced to abandon the fort, they put up enough resistance to enable General George Washington (1732-1799) and his forces to escape across the Gowanus Creek and regroup.

Over 11,500 men and women were held captive by the British on prison ships anchored in the East River and died of overcrowding, contaminated water, starvation, and disease. Hastily buried along the shore, their remains were first moved in 1808 to a tomb on Hudson Avenue, and finally relocated in 1844 to a crypt beneath the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in Fort Greene Park. Greene assisted Washington in victory at Trenton in 1776 and led a successful final defeat of the British in 1782 before retiring to Georgia. The fort itself was rebuilt for the War of 1812, when it was renamed in Greene’s honor.

Person Square is located at the intersection of Myrtle and Carlton Avenues. In 1944, the adjacent Walt Whitman Houses were constructed to provide homes for workers at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard. Parks acquired this square in 1951, and it was named for Person soon after by local law.

Person Square is landscaped with trees providing shade to passersby and park visitors. The square provides a stunning view of the Empire State Building and the Manhattan skyline. Person Square is part of Greenstreets, a joint project of Parks and the Department of Transportation begun in 1986 and revived in 1994. Its goal is to convert paved street properties, such as triangles and malls, into green spaces.

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