Shirley Chisholm State Park is the largest state park in New York City. On July 2nd of this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and prominent Brooklyn officials officially opened the park at a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. The first portion of the park comprises the Pennsylvania Avenue Landfill; the second portion, the Fountain Avenue Landfill, will open in 2021.
The park is beautiful and scenic offering visitors over 10 miles of trails to walk, bike, picnic and go fishing. As you enter the park, you’re greeted by a mural painted by Brooklyn-bred artist Danielle Mastrion.
Chisholm, who was born in Brooklyn, was the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. She represented New York’s 12th congressional district for seven terms and ran for president in the 1972 the Democratic primary—becoming the first black woman to do so.
Shirley Chisholm accomplished much during her lifetime, but the idea of her – her brand of “unbought and unbossed” finds new fans with every new generation. It is befitting to have a park named in her honor as a testament to her works and impact on the communities she served – the district she represented, the women of color she spoke up for, and the better angels of our nation.
However, in our opinion, the park needs improvements to be both a better park, and a better tribute.
Towards this important end, The Press came up with 5 ideas that New York City and State Parks Departments should consider as part of the park’s completion in 2020.
1. Add Event Space
There’s no better way to bring people into the park than to facilitate a space that can host them for organizational and institutional events. Adding a venue to the park will allow those who are inspired by Chisholm’s legacy to celebrate, educate or debate in a space built on that same legacy.
2. Encourage to Black Female Vendors
Shirley Chisholm was revolutionary. First and foremost, she was a trailblazer. She was the first African American woman elected to Congress and has since inspired countless women to walk that same difficult path. The park can represent that same feat by hosting fairs and creating opportunities for MWBEs to sell their products.
3. Summer Camps and Educational Programming for Children
Chisholm was an educator before she was a Congresswoman, and remained an educator throughout her life – instructing us, in a way, through her work on better aspirations and behavior. After working at a nursery school and as Director of various day care centers after, she went on to run NYC’s Division of Daycare. Her focus was always on education initiatives, especially those that would benefit marginalized communities. In tribute, the park should provide summer camp and classes to Brooklyn families who lack the resources to otherwise participate.
4. Share Black Stories
There should be a place where visitors can readily read about the rich history of Chisholm and the period she served. 10 miles of trails is 10 miles of opportunity to educate. Imagine a beautiful series of factoids to enlighten visitors on the rich history they are a part of.
5. Plant More Trees
No shade being thrown, but there’s no shade in the park. We won’t speak for all black and brown people, but there’s nothing like grabbing a blanket, curling up with a book and relaxing to the breeze of the Bay. Right now, you’ll have to get there early to grab one of the limited picnic tables with umbrella covers.