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

January 15, 2021

Stanziola, P. (1964) Mayor Wagner greets Dr. & Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. at City Hall / World-Telegram & Sun photo by Phil Stanziola. 1964. [Photograph]; Courtesy of the Library of Congress

While some of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable moments of his career happened further 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 the icon. On MLK Day this Monday, celebrate by learning about memorials dedicated to him citywide.

Photo by Beyond My Ken on Wikimedia

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.

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 Martin Luther King Park include two full-courts for basketball, handball facilities, and toddler and child play areas.

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 was officially 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.

Martin Luther King Jr. Triangle
East 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.

Photo by Martin on Flickr

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.

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 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.

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.

Martin Luther King Jr. bronze statue
At the Esplanade Gardens between 147th and 151st Streets, Harlem, Manhattan
The Esplanade Gardens development, 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 by edwardhblake on Flickr

Bust of Martin Luther King Jr.
Brooklyn College at 2900 Bedford Avenue in Midwood, Brooklyn
A bust of the civil rights icon can be found at the foot of the stairs that lead to the Brooklyn College library, which anchors the Midwood campus on the East Quad. The bust was sculpted by Brooklyn-based artist Bo Walker in 1985 as a gift to the college from the Black Alumni Association.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post was published on January 12, 2018, and has since been updated.

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