As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $1.4 billion “Vital Brooklyn” initiative, Jamaica Bay will become home to the largest state park in New York City, spanning 407 acres and offering a myriad of activities.
The park will be named for trailblazing New York politician Shirley Chisholm, who was the first black Congresswoman, elected in 1969 to represent the city’s 12th district. Her legacy, according to the National Women’s History Museum:
There, “Fighting Shirley” introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation and championed racial and gender equality, the plight of the poor, and ending the Vietnam War. She was a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, and in 1977 became the first black woman and second woman ever to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee.
She was also the first woman to run for president on the Democratic ticket, launching her ultimately unsuccessful campaign in 1972. (But as the NWHM notes, her campaign was hurt by discrimination: “She was blocked from participating in televised primary debates, and after taking legal action, was permitted to make just one speech.”)
A plaque dedicated to Chisholm was dedicated in 2016 at Brower Park in Crown Heights, but the new state park designation is a fitting honor for one of New York’s most legendary political figures. “Shirley Chisholm led the fight to improve the health and wellness of underserved communities that we carry on today with the Vital Brooklyn initiative, and we are proudly naming this park after her in admiration for the example of leadership and devotion she set for all of us,” Cuomo said in a statement.
By next summer, phase one of Shirley Chisholm State Park will be complete and ready to debut, offering 10 miles of trails that can be used for hiking and biking that will ultimately connect to properties Pennsylvania and Fountain avenues; waterfront access for kayaking, and pop-up educational education. The park will also offer a pier that includes picnic areas, concession stands, restrooms, and a park office. Phase one is slated to cost around $20 million. Public meetings for the design of phase two will begin in the fall of 2019 and according to community input received thus far, could include an amphitheater, an environmental education center, and a cable ferry.