East River State Park was officially renamed on Monday becoming New York’s first state park to be named after an LGBTQ person.
Now named after the famous Stonewall Riots activist, Marsha P. Johnson State Park will see a number of improvements in the coming year including a 1,200 square-foot education center, art installations, resurfacing of the concrete slabs where picnic benches are stationed along with infrastructure improvements throughout the 11-acre green space.
Governor Cuomo who announced the renaming in February, recognized Johnson’s legacy with a statement. “Too often, the marginalized voices that have pushed progress forward in New York and across the country go unrecognized, making up just a fraction of our public memorials and monuments,” he said. “Marsha P. Johnson was one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ movement, and is only now getting the acknowledgement she deserves. Dedicating this state park for her, and installing public art telling her story, will ensure her memory and her work fighting for equality lives on.”
Johnson was born in 1945 and in 1992 she was found dead in the Hudson River in a still unsolved case. She rose to prominence as an advocate for the LGBTQ community in 1969 during the Stonewall Uprising and later brought attention to the needs of AIDS patients.
State Assemblyman Joe Lentol attended the park renaming ceremony on Monday, which also marked Johnson’s 75th birthday. “Marsha was a relentless fighter for LGBTQ equality – her legacy is inspiring to us all and we are forever indebted for her advocacy,” Lentol said in a statement posted to social media.
The following improvements are to be completed by summer 2021, according to Governor Cuomo’s official announcement:
– A new park house/education center: The much-needed public park facility will house classroom space overlooking the park, public bathrooms, park ranger contact station and a small maintenance storage area. This 1200-square-foot facility, built in container-style to reflect the rail-to-barge shipping history of the site, is funded in part by grants from Assembly Member Joseph Lentol and New York City Council Member Steve Levin.
– A Marsha P. Johnson art installation: Additional artwork and interpretive materials celebrating Marsha P. Johnson’s life, along with other material on the LGBTQ movement, will be installed on two long parallel historic gantry foundation walls, which create a natural outdoor gallery. State Parks will consult with the New York City LGBTQ community on design and content.
– Parkwide infrastructure upgrades to resurface the large but deteriorating concrete pads that host Smorgasburg and other park and community events, add park furniture that better reflect the site’s industrial/commercial heritage, rehabilitate the gantry walls and improve stormwater management systems.
– Embellishments of the existing storage building with decorative exterior wall treatments coordinated with fence screening and the Marsha P. Johnson installation.