New York City’s 8 tributes to Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted On Fri, January 12, 2018 By

Posted On Fri, January 12, 2018 By In City Living, Features, Harlem, History

Photo of King via Wikimedia; photo of the MLK cubed sculpture courtesy of Wally Gobetz on Flickr

While some of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable moments of his career happened down South, like the Montgomery bus boycott and his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, support for his goals hailed first from advocacy organizations based in New York City, like the National Urban League. King held sermons at Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, led a march from Central Park to the United Nations in protest of the Vietnam War and received a Medallion of Honor from Mayor Robert Wagner. As a way to honor King and his immense impact on the advancement of civil rights, the city has named streets, parks, playgrounds and more after him. On MLK Day this Monday, 50 years after his untimely death, celebrate by learning about memorials dedicated to him citywide.

1. Martin Luther King Jr. Park
Lenox Avenue, West 113th Street to West 114th Street, Harlem, Manhattan

The city first acquired the Harlem property in 1946 as part of the housing development, the Stephen Foster Houses. After the project was renamed the Martin Luther King Houses, the park’s name changed too. Attractions at the Martin Luther King Park include two full-courts for basketball, handball facilities and toddler and child play areas.


2.Martin Luther King Jr. Playground
Dumont Avenue, between Bradford Street and Miller Avenue, East New York, Brooklyn 

About two years before it became a part of New York City, the city of Brooklyn in 1896 purchased the property from the German-American Improvement Company and named it Linton Park. Following King’s assassination, city leaders proposed renaming the park after the civil rights leader. It officially was renamed the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on May 29, 1970. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani allocated $92,225 for the park’s renovation in 1997. The East New York playground features a comfort station, spray shower, play area for toddlers, basketball and grassy fields.

3. Martin Luther King Jr. Triangle
Eas 149th Street and Austin Place, Mott Haven, the Bronx

The triangle-shaped parcel was first designated as public space by the city in 1892. For many years, the property was unnamed and neglected. Following King’s death, the triangle was named in his honor and refurbished with benches and planted with shrubs and bushes.

4. Martin Luther King Jr. Place
Runs one block along Marcy Avenue and Tompkins Street, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

The Bed-Stuy street named after Dr. King is both less well known than Harlem’s 125th Street, and much shorter in length. Originally called Floyd Street, the City Planning Commission changed the street to honor King about six years after his death on June 11, 1974.

5. Martin Luther King Jr. Towers
70 West 115th Street, Harlem, Manhattan

More commonly known as the King Towers, this sprawling housing development in Harlem contains 10 buildings and 1,373 apartments, housing more than 3,000 residents.  The nearly 14-acre site was completed back in 1954, and then later was renamed for MLK.

Photo via Scott Beale’s Flickr

6. Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus
122 Amsterdam between West 65th and 66th Street, Lincoln Square, Manhattan

This five-story public school, formerly known as  Martin Luther King Jr. High School, opened in 1975. The campus plaza features a self-weathering steel memorial sculpture in honor of the school’s namesake. The blocky, 28-foot cubed sculpture was designed by William Tarr.

7. Martin Luther King Jr. bronze statue
At the Esplanade Gardens between 147th and 151st Streets, Harlem, Manhattan

The Esplanade Gardens, along the Harlem River between 147th and 151st, features a bronze sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. designed in 1970 by Stan Sawyer. The base of the bust has a plaque that includes an excerpt of King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Photo courtesy of Wally Gobetz’ Flickr

8. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Runs along 125th Street, Harlem, Manhattan 

Manhattan’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, co-named as 125th Street, runs from First Avenue on the east side to Marginal Street on the west.  While the street, first named for the equal rights icon in 1984, has undergone major development, historic landmarks like the Apollo Theater and Hotel Theresa remain. According to CityLab, there are approximately 900 street names in the United States named after King.


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