In March, construction was halted on the $14 million Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg, as major public outcry mounted against the design that featured a brightly colored asphalt mural and little actual greenspace. In planning the original proposal, officials bypassed any public engagement and even failed to seek input from the LGBTQ namesake’s family.
“I personally feel this was a mass deception campaign and our family was deceived, moving forward, from this point forward, no one will be trying to exploit my cousin’s name without consulting with my family,” James Carey, Johnson’s relative said at the March 4 Brooklyn Community Board 1 Parks and Waterfront Committee meeting—well after construction had commenced in January with little notice.
Numerous individuals and trans groups also came out to point fingers at Governor Cuomo and his self-serving use of Johnson’s name to advance the project and prop up his own celebrity.
In response to the protest, state officials paused the project and announced they would launch three sets of in-person and Zoom workshops, as well as an online survey, to gather feedback for a more appropriate design.
Now that the sessions have wrapped, state officials debuted a new design this week that ditches thermoplastics for “almost four basketball courts’ worth of greenery,” writes Brooklyn Paper, which first reported the news.
Landscape architects Starr Whitehouse distilled the comments collected into a lush 18,000-square-foot destination at N. Seventh and N. Ninth streets.
In line with calls for "more flowers" and "more green space," the new park features large stretches of grass, climate-appropriate flower gardens, flowering trees, and even log benches. The landscape architects also added moveable picnic tables, a series of plaques dedicated to the history of the LGBTQ Civil Rights movement, and a paver/slab emblazoned with a poem written by Johnson at the entrance to the shore.
In the near future, the state plans to add even more commemorative touches throughout the park, and in particular the Gantry Landscape, which could include statues or public art. Officials say they are holding off until the fall, at which point they will again consult the community for ideas.
Construction on Marsha P. Johnson State Park is expected to be completed by the end of August with the space open to the public shortly thereafter.
- Williamsburg (Urbanize NYC)