BROOKLYN — While monuments to white supremacy are being toppled across the land, a living monument named for a local African American woman and legendary member of Congress has become a popular haven for visitors.

The 407-acre Shirley Chisholm State Park, the newest state park located in New York City, has been offering pandemic-weary New Yorkers a safe, clean and natural respite for the past few months.


“It’s been busy,” said Michael Pezzella, a parks and recreation aide. “It was challenging (staffing with half the workers), but I am glad that we were able to stay open and operational for the patrons of Brooklyn and the five boroughs who want to visit our beautiful park.”

The park offers a stunning view of Jamaica Bay, departures and arrivals at John F. Kennedy International Airport and a Gotham City-like view of the New York City skyline.

When patrons are not enjoying the views, they can partake in any number of activities, including biking, picnicking, birding and fishing.

For local residents, the peace and serenity of the park has offered them a necessary, if temporary, escape from the pain and suffering all around them. As of mid-May, the sprawling housing complex next to the park known as Starrett City was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with 612 Coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents.

Samantha Moy, a parks and recreation aide at Shirley Chisholm State Park, helps maintain this Brooklyn oasis.

“It’s just good for your mental health,” said Park Worker Samantha Moy. “We are still in a pandemic.”
Aside from regular park maintenance and management, park crews are also busy making sure safety protocols are being followed.

“The biggest struggle is ensuring safety of the patrons and staff and practicing social distancing,” said Pezzella.

Not unlike the park’s namesake, the first Black woman in Congress, Shirley Chisolm, local residents have a park that can also offer hope and inspiration during a time filled with so much loss and uncertainty.
“It’s our little oasis in the concrete jungle,” said Pezzella.

— David Galarza


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