The preliminary design for a new gateway to Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Brooklyn was unveiled this summer. The park honors Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender woman of color who was a pioneer of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement.
The gateway will cap a $16.5 million renovation project completed this past summer.
The ornamental gateway at the Kent Avenue/North Eighth Street entrance will welcome visitors into the park. This gateway structure is intended to communicate Marsha P. Johnson’s spirit and legacy and complements the park and surrounding neighborhood. Fabrication of the gateway is expected to begin in 2023.
The gateway will build on newly completed improvements that consist of extensive new landscaping – including a native species perennial garden and ‘Marsha’s hillside’ to honor her love of nature; a new great lawn; dozens of new trees; permeable pathways; new park furnishings; permanent interpretive panels documenting Marsha’s life, work and community; new signage park wide; and a substantial site-wide stormwater management system to improve drainage throughout the park.
Last year, a series of completed improvements included a new park house with public bathrooms, a classroom and gathering space, and park maintenance and ranger contact space as well as a green roof; a refurbished and accessible cobblestone walkway from North 8th entrance into the park; preliminary interpretive panels honoring Marsha P. Johnson’s life and civil rights work and community; and refurbished concrete event platforms.
The repair and reduction of the event pads and other hardscapes yielded nearly an acre of additional greenspace to the seven-acre park. The improvements followed consultation with the transgender and LGBTQ communities, neighborhood leaders, Johnson’s family and the general public over the park’s design.
Formerly East River State Park, the facility was renamed in Marsha P. Johnson’s honor in February 2020. Known as an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and HIV/AIDS treatment, Marsha was a prominent figure of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 and later established a shelter in New York City to support LGBTQ+ young people rejected by their families. She was born August 24th, 1945, and died mysteriously in 1992 at age 46.
She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, an activist with ACT UP, and a co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) – later renamed as Strategic Transgender Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR) – along with Sylvia Rivera. Born in New Jersey, Marsha P. Johnson moved to Greenwich Village after graduating from high school. She turned her hardships and her struggles with mental illness into activism for others, participating in demonstrations with ACT UP and raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City.
The seven-acre waterfront park located along the East River in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn offers visitors a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline, a delightful play area, and the green space provides many opportunities for recreation and relaxation. As the site of a 19th century shipping dock, visitors to East River may also discover unique historical remnants like old cobblestone streets and railroad tracks embedded in concrete, as well as a popular dog run and beach.
The park is free and open to the public, and attracts approximately 1.6 million visitors each year. In addition to views of the East River and Manhattan, the park offers native meadow plantings among the historic rail yard remnants; passive recreation; picnicking and barbecues.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by more than 78 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, click here.
Photo of rendering of new gateway to Marsha P. Johnson State Park provided.