Robert E. Venable Park

Robert E. Venable Park

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

This park, located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of City Line, honors Robert E. Venable (1952-1987), a New York City Transit Police Officer who was tragically killed in the line of duty by drug dealers on September 22, 1987 in East New York.

Venable gave much of his time to working with the youth from his community in addition to caring for his own daughter, Januari, as a single father. Officer Venable participated in many church and community activities during his short life. Before becoming a police officer, he held a part-time job with the Post Office, and worked for School District 19’s Head Start program. He was also a teacher’s aide at the Cypress Day Care Center. After becoming an officer, Venable became a counselor in a drug prevention program. He organized teenagers from the community to help clean and maintain this park. He arranged as well as funded sports events and excursions for them after their cleaning activities, including fishing trips.

In his community efforts and by personal example, Venable was considered by many to be an outstanding role model for the youth of this neighborhood. In November 1987, the City Council enacted, and Mayor Edward I. Koch signed, a local law naming this park for Venable. The next year, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for the valor he displayed in the police action in which he lost his life. Venable is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Decades before the park was created, this site -- bounded by Sheridan, Belmont, Grant, and Sutter Avenues -- was chosen to house subway tunnels beneath the surface. These tunnels run beneath the center of the park and continue to service the MTA Pitkin Avenue Service Yard just south of Sutter Avenue. The surface area above the tunnels served as a City-owned parking lot long before it became a park. By the 1970s, with the construction of the Linden Plaza Houses, there was growing need for recreational space within the community. Brooklyn Community Board 5 proposed the development of the site as a park for neighborhood residents. The project was delayed by the City’s mid-1970s fiscal crisis, and construction did not get underway until 1979.

That year, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development constructed the park as part of their Interim Site Improvement Program. The property was transferred to Parks in 1985. During the early 1990s, the community’s continued growth created even more demand for recreational space, in response to which Parks closed a portion of the adjacent undeveloped Grant Avenue to increase the size of the park.

In 2010 Parks completed an $8.1 million reconstruction of Robert Venable Park, almost doubling the acreage (from 1.83 to 3 acres), and transforming the character of the landscape. An additional 5,000 cubic yards of new soil were used to vary the grade, and permit new varieties of plantings, including larger trees and perennials – all of which was not possible in the previous life of this park. The park is also designed to capture storm water and keep it within the site: the new contours of the landscape guide the water to the lowest point where it is collected and stored underground. State-of-the-art play equipment was added, together with facilities that allow for a wide range of activities, including a new volleyball court, a skate spot and exercise equipment. The new comfort station, placed along the central spine of the park, has green design elements that serve to reduce heat absorption, enhance natural lighting and conserve rain water. Parks received $4.5 million in funds from Councilmember Charles Barron, $2.6 million from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, $570,000 from Borough President Marty Markowitz and $350,000 from a New York State Environmental Protection Fund Grant for the redevelopment of this park.

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Directions to Robert E. Venable Park

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