Renderings courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office and NY State Parks
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday dedicated Brooklyn’s East River State Park to Black transgender rights activist Marsha P. Johnson, making it the first state park in New York named after an LGBTQ person and transgender woman of color. Located on the Williamsburg waterfront and known for hosting popular outdoor market Smorgasburg, the park will feature a new colorful public art installation honoring Johnson, who played a significant role in the Stonewall Uprising and was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front. The dedication comes on what would have been Johnson’s 75th birthday.
Coinciding with the renaming, New York State Parks installed a decorative fence with colorful flowers at the main gate on North 8th Street on Kent Avenue and on North 7th Street and Kent Avenue, part of the public art installation’s first phase. The fence design is aimed to reflect the style of Johnson, who was known to wear vibrant clothes and flower crowns. Signage detailing Johnson’s life and her role as an activist has also been installed at the park.
“Too often, the marginalized voices that have pushed progress forward in New York and across the country go unrecognized, making up just a fraction of our public memorials and monuments,” Cuomo said in a press release.
“Marsha P. Johnson was one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ movement and is only now getting the acknowledgment she deserves. Dedicating this state park for her, and installing public art telling her story, will ensure her memory and her work fighting for equality lives on.”
More artwork and materials honoring Johnson will be installed on two parallel gantry foundation walls as part of an outdoor gallery. State Parks said it will work with the city’s LGBTQ community to develop a design and type of content to be featured.
According to the state, other improvements expected to be complete by next summer include a new park container-based facility with public bathrooms, park ranger contact station, and storage, as well as parkwide infrastructure upgrades, like fixing the concrete pads used by Smorgasburg and other events. New park furniture will also be added that “reflect the site’s industrial/commercial heritage,” according to a press release.
Johnson became a Greenwich Village icon, affectionately referred to as the “mayor of Christopher Street,” during her time in NYC. A drag queen who suffered from homelessness for years, Johnson helped found the Gay Liberation Front, along with transgender activist and friend Slyvia Rivera.
“Open spaces are the jewels of any neighborhood and are used for recreation and leisure by people from every walk of life. To have one of our local parks named after someone as influential and important to the history of our city and the fight for equality everywhere is an honor,” Council Member Stephen Levin said.
“Marsha P Johnson spent her life fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and to bring dignity and respect to so many New Yorkers. The new name and planned improvements to the park will show our commitment to providing world class public spaces for everyone.”
- Williamsburg park to be renamed after LGBTQ advocate Marsha P. Johnson
- ‘She Built NYC’ Greenwich Village monument will honor two transgender activists
- Six significant LGBTQ sites in New York City are landmarked
All renderings courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office and NY State Parks