Police Officer Edward Byrne Park
Police Officer Edward Byrne Park
This park honors the memory of Police Officer Edward Byrne (1966-1988), a rookie officer who was killed in the line of duty on February 26, 1988. Byrne was shot several times in the head and died instantly as he sat in his police car while on assignment protecting a drug case witness at 107th Avenue and Inwood Street in South Jamaica, Queens. The cold-blooded killing, which was apparently a plot to intimidate witnesses from testifying against drug dealers, shocked the consciousness of the city. A year after the murder, four men were convicted and sentenced to the maximum sentences of 25 years to life for the crime. Byrne was single, 22, and living in Massapequa, Long Island, at the time he was murdered. He had joined the police force the previous July, and worked at the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica, Queens.
Byrne’s tragic death motivated the creation of the Tactical Narcotics Team in South Jamaica, and the program’s success led to its expansion throughout the city. Many drug dealers were chased out of Jamaica, but an influx of drug activity came to Ozone Park. The response was to take this lot, which was formerly filled with rubble and debris, and transform it into a drug-free recreation area for the community. In 1988, Queens Borough President Claire Shulman allocated $1.7 million to construct the park, and a local law named the park in honor of the slain officer. Construction began in February 1993, and the park officially opened on August 3, 1995.
Music publisher Benjamin W. Hitchcock developed Ozone Park in the 1880s and marketed the area for its “invigorating and healthful breezes” sweeping in from Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Although today we associate “ozone” with environmental troubles, at the time the area was named the word connoted pleasant breezes and peaceful pastoral scenes—images attractive to dwellers of the bustling city. In 1907, real estate developer David Leahy began to build small homes in the fields south of Ozone Park. He lured middle-class buyers with the promise that only a small down payment and additional monthly fees would secure them a “four-room cottage in the country.” Brooklyn Rapid Transit extended elevated train service to Ozone Park in 1915, making it possible to commute to Manhattan for a nickel. Rockaway Boulevard, the area’s main commercial strip, was completed in 1922, and by 1957, the bordering neighborhoods of Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill South together boasted a population of more than 130,000 residents.
This property in South Ozone Park, bounded by North Conduit Avenue, 130th and 134th Streets, was acquired by the Department of Water Supply in 1936 and assigned to Parks in 1964. Parks turned down a proposal to convert the site into a parking lot. After the tragic killing of Officer Byrne, funds were allocated to develop the property into a thriving park. The park offers an array of recreational facilities for the residents of South Ozone Park, including a running track, four tennis courts, two basketball courts and four full-size handball courts. A spray shower and sprinkler in the children’s area separate two large plastic and metal playground equipment modules. A central lawn and sitting area offers spots for relaxation. At Police Officer Edward Byrne Park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in 1995, Commissioner Stern said, “The park stands as a monument to Officer Byrne’s life work, and will provide safe recreation for generations to come.”