Shirley Chisholm State Park Debuts in Brooklyn, New York

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park in East New York, New York on July 2.The park is now the largest state park in the city with 407 acres in Jamaica Bay, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported. The park is part of the Vital Brooklyn initiative, which is “a model for community development and wellness.” The Vital Brooklyn initiative invests in community-based healthcare, healthy food, education, and open recreation spaces, according to the New York State government.

"Today we add another gem to our treasure trove of state parks, transforming what was once a blemish on the South Brooklyn community into exquisite open space," Cuomo said in a statement. "Shirley Chisholm fought to improve the health and wellness of underserved communities, a legacy we are carrying on through the Vital Brooklyn Initiative, so we are proud to dedicate this park in memory of her leadership and accomplishments."The park has completed its first phase of the project, which includes hiking trails, a pier for fishing, and a mural of Chisholm painted by Brooklyn artist Danielle Mastrion, Curbed New York reported. Its second phase is set to be completed by 2021 and will add pop-up environmental education facilities and lawn patios, according to the publication.

"Over my career in public service, I've looked to Shirley Chisholm as an inspiration, a role model, and a strong woman who fought for her community," Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

"Our work to revitalize Brooklyn takes a major step forward today with the opening of New York City's largest state park in honor of one of the greatest women in our state's history. Shirley Chisholm State Park is an important part of our Vital Brooklyn initiative to improve health and wellness and provide great recreational opportunities for the community."

Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to congress in Congress in 1968. The Brooklyn native was born to immigrant parents from Guyana and Barbados in 1924. She graduated from Brooklyn Girls’ High school in 1942 and went on to study at Brooklyn College, where she graduated cum lade in 1946. In 1951, she earned her master’s degree from Columbia University in childhood education and became a consultant for the New York City Division of Day Care by 1960.

Chisholm was an activist and joined the local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of Women Voters, according to the National Women's History Museum. She became the second African American in the New York State Legislature in 1964 and won a seat in Congress by 1968.During her time in Congress, she introduced over 50 pieces of legislation and fought for racial and gender equality and to end the Vietnam War. In 1972, she became the first African American and the first woman to run for the nomination for president for the US, the museum website states.

While running for president, Chisholm faced discrimination and was not allowed to participate in the primary debates, according to the museum’s website. Her statement, “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” became famous. She retired from Congress in 1983 and co-founded the National Political Black Congress of Black Women. A decade after she died, she was honored by Barack Obama and given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

"My fellow Black female members of Congress and I stand on the shoulders of the great Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm,” Congresswoman Yvette D. Clark said in a statement. “The opening of the Shirley Chisholm State Park is a historic victory for the Brooklyn community that will continue to help educate future generations about her legacy and empower Black Women and Girls to also be unbought and unbossed." As part of another New York City initiative, city officials announced in May the city will honor transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera with a monument near Stonewall Inn. The monument is part of the She Built NYC campaign, which is a public arts initiative that honors historic women for their work in New York City and across the world.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.