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Leif Ericson Park

Leif Ericson Park and Square

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

Leif Ericson was probably the first European to set foot on the American continent, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus’ voyages. Leif was born in Iceland around 960, the son of Eric the Red, the Norwegian outlaw who discovered and colonized Greenland. The Norse Sagas suggest either that inclement weather had blown Leif and his ship off-course, or that Leif was attempting to confirm an earlier report of a hilly, forested land when he discovered three great landmasses around the year 1000. Modern consensus holds that the first two islands were probably Baffin Island and Labrador in Canada. The third discovery may have been as far north as Newfoundland or as far south as Cape Cod. Leif called this third land Vinland for the wild grapes growing there. The crew wintered in Vinland and returned to Greenland the next year. 

Eight centuries after Leif’s Atlantic voyage, Norwegians began to migrate in large numbers to New York, especially after 1825. Many made their homes in Brooklyn. The City acquired the site of this playground in 1895-97 for the Bay Ridge Parkway, but at the behest of community leaders it created a new park on five vacant blocks in 1925, naming it for Ericson, a hero to the Norwegian people. The current park was one of the first planned by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in 1934-35. In 1939, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, later King Olav V, dedicated a monument to Leif Ericson at the Fourth Avenue entrance to the park. Artist August Werner created the two bronze, rune-stone-shaped relief tablets mounted on granite. The U.S. Army briefly occupied the property during World War II, but NYC Parks rehabilitated the site after their departure in 1945. 

The park features decorations with Norse themes, including troll statues, columns decorated like the turrets of the famous stave church of Borgund, Norway, a cast-iron, longboat-shaped sign from Moses’ original park, and a nearby Greenstreets site is named, appropriately enough, Greenland. The park ball fields honor Police Officer Christopher Hoban, who was killed in the line of duty in 1989.

In 2009, the park was redesigned with its namesake in mind by including Viking ship-themed play equipment, swings, safety surfacing, and a volleyball court. In addition, the project provided new basketball keys, game tables, benches, and a steel perimeter fence and gates. Across 65th Street from the main section of Leif Ericson Park, the "dust bowl" sports field received synthetic turf for multi-purpose play, misting stations, and recreational lights in June 2010. The field’s new name, Quaker Parrot Park at the Dustbowl, was selected by an informal neighborhood vote, honoring the flock of Argentine birds who escaped their adopted homes and established colonies throughout Brooklyn in the two decades preceding the park’s renaming.

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