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Pulaski Park

Pulaski Park

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

Pulaski Park is one of two parklands in New York City (the other is in the Brooklyn) that honors Casimir Pulaski (1748-1779), a Polish patriot and military commander during the American Revolutionary War. Pulaski was born to a noble family in the present-day region of Podolia, Poland. In 1768, the 20 year old Pulaski joined with his father to form the Confederation of Bar, a group of Polish nobles dedicated to opposing Russian influence in Poland. In an unsuccessful rebellion against the Russian-dominated King of Poland, Stanislaus II (1764-1795), Pulaski gained international military fame. After the Confederation was suppressed by Russian troops in 1772, Pulaski escaped first to Prussia, in present northwest Germany, and then to France.

While in Paris, Pulaski met with American diplomats Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and Silas Deane (1737-1787). The two statesmen convinced the gifted military commander to join the American Revolutionary cause. In 1777, Pulaski arrived in Boston where he met with Continental Army commander, General George Washington. On Washington’s recommendation, Congress commissioned Pulaski as a brigadier general of the cavalry in the Continental army. One year later, tired of serving under General “Mad” Anthony Wayne (1745-1796), Pulaski resigned his command and organized his own cavalry unit, the Pulaski Legion. With his Legion, Pulaski served with distinction at the Battles of Brandywine (September 1777), Germantown (October 1777), and Valley Forge (December 1777-January 1778) in Pennsylvania.

In 1779, Pulaski took part in an unsuccessful assault on a British stronghold in Savannah, Georgia. During the attack, Pulaski was mortally wounded while leading a cavalry charge into British lines. In recognition of Pulaski’s service to the fledgling nation, the United States government in 1847 dedicated a military fort to him, Fort Pulaski, located outside of Savannah. In 1924, Fort Pulaski was designated a National Monument.

In 1904, the City of New York acquired jurisdiction over this property and transferred control to the Department of Bridges for use as an approach to the Willis Avenue Bridge. Following the construction of the approach, Parks acquired the unused land, 1.43 acres, from the Sinking Fund Commission for use as a public park in 1916. The Board of Alderman named this park in Pulaski’s honor in 1930, and a memorial plaque bearing the Polish war hero’s portrait was erected. In 1938, 0.76 acres was added to Pulaski Park, bringing it to its current size. Due to the deterioration of the original steel underneath the plaque, a monumental flagpole base to carry the plaque was erected, and the Pulaski memorial was rededicated in connection with the enlargement of the park. Unfortunately, the memorial plaque was stolen in 1976. Another memorial still stands in Silver Lake Park, Staten Island commemorating the heroism and dedication of Casimir Pulaski.

In 1996, Parks completed a $641,000 renovation of Pulaski Park, funded by Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. The handball, basketball, and volleyball courts were refurbished, and the park’s fencing and pavements were replaced. In addition, new modern play equipment, exercise equipment, and drinking fountains were installed. Today, Pulaski Park not only offers a place for fun, sport and relaxation, but also pays tribute to a Polish American hero.

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