Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

July 02, 2019

New York State Announces Opening of $20 Million First Phase of Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn

407-Acre State Park on Jamaica Bay is the Largest in NYC, Offering Hiking, Biking, Fishing and Picnicking

Park Honors Shirley Chisholm, the First African American Congresswoman and First African American Woman to Run for President

New Park a Signature Project in Vital Brooklyn Initiative

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the opening of the state's newest and largest public park in New York City, the 407-acre Shirley Chisholm State Park along the shores of Jamaica Bay. The new park honors Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, an educator, former representative of the 12th Congressional district in New York for seven terms and the first African American woman to run for president. The park is a signature project of Governor Cuomo's Vital Brooklyn Initiative, which calls for 34 new or improved pocket parks, community gardens, playgrounds and recreation centers within a ten-minute walk of every Central Brooklyn resident.

"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," Governor Cuomo said. "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."

"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," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "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."

Under the initial $20 million phase, the park will provide ten miles of marked trails for hiking and biking; a bayside pier for picnicking and fishing along the park's Pennsylvania Avenue side; and water access. Environmental educators will offer programs for children who visit the park, where partnerships are planned with environmental groups such as Audubon New York. In addition, a partnership with Bike New York will create the Shirley Chisholm State Park Bike Library, offering free loaner bikes off all sizes to ride the crushed stone trails of the park.

The park also features a colorful mural honoring Chisholm by Brooklyn muralist Danielle Mastrion. Chisholm, a Brooklyn native, was the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. She ran in the Democratic primary for President in 1972 as the first African American woman to seek the nation's highest office. A decade after her death in 2005, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Under a second $20 million phase currently under design, additions to the park will include a grand entrance on Fountain Avenue; lawn patios - with one large enough for open-air community gatherings and performances; a patio overlooking Hendrix Creek; and pop-up environmental education facilities in both the Fountain and Pennsylvania Avenue sections of the park. This work should be completed in 2021.

The park is a prime excellent example of the beneficial reuse of a formerly contaminated property. State Parks worked closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to craft redevelopment plans that are protective of public health and the environment. DEC will continue to work closely with State Parks as subsequent phases of the park proceed in the future.

Erik Kulleseid, New York State Parks Commissioner, said, "Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, the state continues to provide more opportunities for people to get outside and reconnect with nature, wherever they might live. Residents of Brooklyn and beyond will be able to enjoy Shirley Chisholm State Park for years to come."

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "The transformation of this site into Shirley Chisholm State Park is a prime example of how New York's cleanup of former industrial sites benefits surrounding communities. This new park will offer local residents opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature, helping to revitalize the surround community and Brooklyn's economy."

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, "For too long, we have not done enough to honor the significant contributions of women in our city, state and nation. Today's opening of the New York's newest park, the Shirley Chisholm State Park, is an important step in correcting that omission. Shirley who was elected here in Brooklyn, was the first black woman elected to Congress, and it is fitting that New York City's largest park will be named after a woman who was a true trailblazer."

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke said, "My fellow Black female members of Congress and I stand on the shoulders of the great Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. 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."

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries said, "Shirley Chisholm famously said to bring a folding chair if they don't give you a seat at the table and that's what she did all her life. Whether it was her groundbreaking election to Congress in 1968, or her historic run for President, she never stopped fighting to make sure every voice was heard. Governor Cuomo is to be commended for this important effort to honor Shirley Chisholm's legacy."

Senator Roxanne Persaud said, "Today we begin another exciting day in Brooklyn as we open the first phase of the Shirley Chisholm State Park. Residents of Senate District 19 can look forward to enjoying water sports, hiking, picnicking and other wonderful and healthy activities not far from their homes. No longer will we need to travel miles away to enjoy activities on the water; we now have a state of the art park in our back yard. I commend Governor Cuomo for including this park in the Vital Brooklyn plan and look forward to the full completion in 2021."

Senator Kevin Parker said, "Shirley Chisholm is an iconic figure and major part of our history here in Brooklyn. I am proud to join Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in government for the opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park. This is a huge honor and generations to come will have the opportunity to enjoy the park and celebrate Shirley Chisholm's legacy for years to come."

Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte said, "I am pleased to see progress made in the development of additional outdoor space for the public in New York, in particular, Brooklyn. We have seen what beautified parks can do for a community; it bring neighborhoods out and together, it allows kids to be kids, it promotes health, wellness and balance of life. To be able to retrofit land space for broad use by the public is eco-smart and a win-win for the city. Introducing the park as the Shirley Chisholm State Park is a gift to Brooklyn as Shirley Chisholm represented freedom and progress. Congratulations to all who was a part of this parks inception."

Assembly Member Diana Richardson said, "There are few parks and monuments that are dedicated to women, especially women of color. The Shirley Chisholm State Park will go a long way to help correct that history, while bringing much-needed outdoor space to South Brooklyn. I thank the Governor for his commitment to the underserved communities of this borough."

Assembly Member Erik Dilan said, "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, Brooklyn's underserved communities -- and our children especially -- will have unprecedented access to outdoor recreational activities and learning opportunities. Shirley Chisholm would be proud to see a project with such widespread impact come to the borough in her name."

Assembly Member Jaime Williams said, "The importance of inculcating within our youth the ability preserve and care for their local marine environment will only garner and foster a respect and love for Jamaica Bay and the surrounding shore. The Shirley Chisolm Park will serve as a cornerstone for our community and solidify our youth's love and appreciation for the varied environment of which we all take part in. As not only an elected official of the 59th AD but a resident myself, I am grateful for to the Governor for this incredible new shining gem in our district."

Assembly Member Latrice Walker said, "Shirley Chisolm State Park is just one of the many remarkable transformations of central Brooklyn under Vital Brooklyn. Thank you Governor Cuomo for both recognizing and working with all of us to take the action necessary to improve upon these community treasures. Being the largest state park in Brooklyn, I'm confident Chisholm State Park will provide the residents of East New York and all of Central Brooklyn with the green space to benefit our environment and to provide families with the park space they deserve."

Assembly Member Nick Perry said, "It's a great day for Brooklyn and there is no other Brooklyn icon more deserving of the honor of having this park named after her. Brooklyn has long needed a park of this quality and with the vast array of amenities planned, Parks lovers will surely appreciate and enjoy this great addition to our outdoor recreational attraction. The Governor's leadership in designating state funding for this vital Brooklyn project will be greatly appreciated and enjoyed by generations to come."

Assembly Member Helene Weinstein said, "I join Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Parks in celebrating the opening of the Shirley Chisholm State Park. Having known Congresswoman Chisholm, I can say with great certainty that the dedication of land for the sole purpose of enjoying the natural beauty and wonder of this great state is a very appropriate way to honor the memory of a proud New Yorker, and Brooklynite, like Shirley - a pioneer in so many ways. At a time when our environment has a target on its back, it's great to be part of an expansion of open recreational space for Brooklyn families."

Assembly Member Joseph Lentol said, "I congratulate the Governor on the opening of the Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, NY. What a great honor for every Brooklynite. Congress Woman Chisholm was one of Brooklyn's greatest leaders and with pride we pay tribute to her with the naming of this park. Congress Woman Chisholm understood that every person deserved space where they could rest, think, restore and understand how to make one's mark on this beautiful planet."

NYC DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said, "New York City invested more than $200 million to remediate the parkland and protect the health of Jamaica Bay while providing a beautiful open space for the residents of Brooklyn. Shirley Chisholm fought for equality and opportunity and I couldn't be prouder to have worked with our state and federal partners to create an impressive new design for the park that honors her inspiring legacy."

Gemma Garcia, President of the Friends of Shirley Chisholm State Park said, "Before the Park was officially changed to the Shirley Chisholm State Park the men and women of this community formed a group the CAC i.e. Citizens Advisory Committee to speak for the wants of East New York and surrounding communities for a state park to be built on the land fill in the Jamaica Bay. Thirty plus years have now passed and so have some of the men and women of the CAC. The determination of those left made it possible for the park to become a reality. We are standing on the largest state park in NYC!!!! This has been possible with the support of the of the National Parks Service, the City of New York, DEP, the State of New York, Congressman Hakeem Jefferies and special thanks to Governor Cuomo."

Tom Secunda, Chair, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy said, "The opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park marks a milestone in the resurgence of Jamaica Bay's public parkland. This new park will offer residents and visitors much needed open space, but more importantly opens a once active landfill and source of community blight as a place where the public can now enjoy miles of trails, vistas overlooking the bay, free biking, and enjoyment of the waterfront. A project like this is only possible through public-private partnership with government and non-profit organizations like the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, ensuring that our public lands are open for use, that our waterfront is accessible and that the public is offered robust programming and amenities to meet their needs. On behalf of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, I commend Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York for their commitment to this beautiful new park and an initial investment of $20 million to open this place to the public. We look forward to continuing to work with the state, city and federal government to ensure that Shirley Chisholm State Park continues to see investment and additional programming for all."

Commissioner Joshua Laird, National Parks of New York Harbor, said, "The National Park Service is committed to opening more federal lands for public enjoyment and the opening of Shirley Chisolm State Park at Gateway National Recreation Area achieves just that. The State's completion of the Phase I park is truly a cause for celebration. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for his vision and welcome our new neighbors at the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Today's opening means that the people of Brooklyn and visitors from all over the City and nation can finally enjoy the site's sweeping vistas of New York Harbor and the natural beauty of Jamaica Bay."

Superintendent Jen Nersesian, Gateway National Recreation Area, said, "Forty years ago a vision took hold to transform a mountain of waste into a jumping-off point into the clean outdoors for hundreds of thousands of nearby residents. It took the perseverance on the part of local community leaders and the tremendous partnership of the State to make the Shirley Chisholm State Park a reality," said Superintendent Jen Nersesian, Gateway National Recreation Area. "This park now joins other Gateway green space gems such as the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Floyd Bennett Field, Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden for people to hike, bike, picnic, paddle, and just enjoy being outside."

Ken Podziba, President and CEO of Bike New York, said, "We're thrilled to partner with New York State Parks to launch New York's first-ever Bike Library at Shirley Chisholm State Park. New Yorkers can enjoy the beauty and serenity of this park on two wheels by borrowing bikes free of charge -- and not just any bike but used bikes that have been salvaged from the waste stream and refurbished by Recycle-A-Bicycle's mechanics for reuse. We thank Governor Cuomo and his team for turning this former landfill into a big, beautiful, car-free park that truly honors the great Shirley Chisholm."

Standing up to 130 feet above sea level, the new park occupies some of the highest ground in the city, with panoramic views of the Empire State Building to the northwest, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and New York Harbor to the west, and Jamaica Bay to the south.

The site, which has never been open to the public, rests atop the former Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue landfills that were operated by New York City Department of Sanitation from 1956 to 1983. After the landfills were closed, the city deeded the land to the National Park Service as part of Gateway National Recreation Area. A project to reclaim the landfills included installation of impermeable plastic and clay caps and a below-ground barrier to support potential future reuse.

More than 1.2 million cubic yards of clean soil - or enough to fill nearly 100,000 dump trucks - was spread up to four feet deep across the site, which was later planted with more than 35,000 trees and shrubs. The addition of prairie grass and native plants has prevented erosion and encouraged a diverse ecosystem of coastal meadows, wetlands, and woodlands that has attracted a variety of birds and other local wildlife.

The Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy funded the initial conceptual plan to create the park. For decades, the group pushed the City to close landfills and make them into a park.

Under the agreement with the National Park Service and the City of New York, New York State Parks is developing Shirley Chisholm State Park in cooperation with the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the DEP, which will continue to manage the former landfill infrastructure.

Shirley Chisholm State Park is the second state park opened by Governor Cuomo in New York City, following the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park in 2012. Shirley Chisholm State Park is one of eight state parks in the city. State Parks operates Bayswater Point State Park and Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens, East River State Park in Brooklyn, Clay Pit Ponds State Park in Staten Island, Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Manhattan, and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.

Elsewhere in the state, the Governor also opened Buffalo Harbor State Park in 2015 and Hallock State Park Preserve on Long Island in 2017.