Maria Hernandez Park

Maria Hernandez Park

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

In 1989 the City Council renamed this park for a community leader who gave her life in the fight to rid her block of drug dealers. A long-time resident of Bushwick, Maria Hernandez (1953-1989) was born in Brooklyn and was educated at public schools in the borough. She received an undergraduate degree in accounting from New York University. Residing in Bushwick, she worked as a bookkeeper for the Hospital Investment Management Corporation in Englewood, New Jersey.

Hernandez and her husband Carlos were leaders in the struggle against drugs in Bushwick. They pleaded with drug dealers to leave the streets and provided information to the police about drug trafficking. To rally support for her efforts and to educate her neighbors about the need to evict the dealers, Hernandez organized block parties, athletic activities, and social and cultural gatherings. She was a positive role model for young people and a loving inspiration to all. On the morning of August 8, 1989, Hernandez was struck by five shots fired through the window of her Starr Street home and died soon after. Her block, her neighborhood, and her city mourned the death of his brave and dedicated woman.

The park had been known as Bushwick Park for almost a century. The Dutch town of Boswijck, meaning "heavy woods," was established in 1660. After 1840 many German immigrants settled in the area, and by the 1880 there were at least eleven breweries operating within a fourteen-block area known as "brewer's row." Bushwick became part of the City of Brooklyn in 1854. Farms gave way to city blocks, and development increased after the 1888 opening of an elevated line to Manhattan. Other ethnic groups-including Italians, Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, and Dominicans-established enclaves in Bushwick in the 20th century. The last two local breweries in the neighborhood, Rheingold and F and M Schaefer, closed in 1976.

The City of Brooklyn purchased the land for Bushwick Park from several landowners including showman Phineas T. Barnum and his wife Nancy. Major landscaping and building transformed the site into a showplace park by 1896. Bushwick Park was a popular spot for neighborhood recreation, from Fourth of July and Labor Day celebrations to croquet matches, from dancing to baseball games.

In the late 1930s new sliding boards, sand box, and swing sets were installed in the playground, and a softball field with bleachers was constructed. Renovations in the early 1970s added at least three more basketball courts and improved drainage and plumbing systems. Five years after the park was renamed for Maria Hernandez, it underwent an intensive five-day clean-up and repair campaign. Park workers removed broken glass, debris, and graffiti; repaired and painted benches and fencing; restored the ballfield; and cleaned the sewer line. The spruce-up paid particular attention to the trees, pruning existing ones and planting new ones. Kindergarten students from nearby P.S. 123 helped to plant a callery pear tree in the park.

Directions to Maria Hernandez Park

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