After widespread communal backlash, state park honchos are overhauling their designs for Williamsburg’s Marsha P. Johnson State Park and halting their colorful tribute to the greenspace’s LGBTQ namesake.
Meanwhile, almost four basketball courts’ worth of greenery are being added to the waterfront lawn on Kent Avenue.
“We’ve had really great conversations and just really appreciate everybody’s passion for joining in the project and this is your park,” State Parks regional director for New York City, Leslie Wright, told Community Board 1’s Parks and Waterfront Committee during a virtual meeting May 5.
The new plans for the park between N. Seventh and N. Ninth streets follows widespread outcry earlier this year by locals and Johnson’s family against the agency’s original plan, which included a large colorful mural of the activist splashed on one of the two signature concrete slabs.
Residents and relatives at the time said the Albany agency was steamrolling its plans in spite of local opposition, with some Brooklynites likening the scheme to little more than a vanity project for Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The agency briefly halted construction before launching a series of nine in-person and virtual workshops starting at the end of March through May 3, along with an online survey to gather feedback on how to better the meadow’s look.
The new Marsha P. Johnson State Park proposal by Manhattan landscape architects Starr Whitehouse swaps out the large painting for a series of commemorative plaques along the entrance at North Eighth Street and a mosaic of a poem written by Johnson leading to the shoreline.
Parks will add some 18,000 square feet of greenery by shrinking the concrete slabs. A slice of space known as the Gantry Plaza, which was originally supposed to have large floral signs about the LGTBQ rights struggle, will become a more passive patch of grass.
The greenspace gurus will also install naturalistic elements like log benches along the waterfront and plant a series flower gardens around a circular path.
The park remains under construction and will wrap up in June, with plans to open up the space by the end August, according to Wright.
Officials will meet with locals again in the fall to discuss more possible ways to commemorate Johnson, such as a statue or a public art work at the entrance to the park.
This story first appeared in Gay City News’ sister publication, Brooklyn Paper.