New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced recently that the East River State Park in Williamsburg would be dedicated to and renamed for LGBTQ+ civil rights activist and pioneer Marsha P. Johnson. This dedication is a monumental moment, as it marks the first time in history that New York has named a park after an LGBTQ+ and a trans person of color. Cuomo announced the renaming on what would have been Johnson’s 75th birthday.
“I’m proud to announce the dedication of East River State Park in Brooklyn to #MarshaPJohnson,” Cuomo said in a tweet. “Today, Marsha P. Johnson State Park becomes the first State Park to honor an LGBTQ person. NY is indebted to her for her brave advocacy and relentless fight for LGBTQ equality.”
I’m proud to announce the dedication of East River State Park in Brooklyn to #MarshaPJohnson.
Today, Marsha P. Johnson State Park becomes the first State Park to honor an LGBTQ person.
NY is indebted to her for her brave advocacy and relentless fight for LGBTQ equality. pic.twitter.com/mMNo6jqQcI
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) August 24, 2020
The East River State Park was actually renamed in February, despite yesterday’s announcement. The park is seven acres overlooking the East River from the Brooklyn side and is home to Smorgasburg, the food festival. The dedication extends further than just the name, however. There are also extensive plans underway for major infrastructure improvements, like installing new restrooms, building a new park house, and replacing crumbling cement, that are expected to be finished by next summer. A public art installation honoring Johnson will be installed as well, alongside public works designed to highlight the activist’s contributions to the LGBTQ+ movement.
Johnson was a consistently outspoken advocate and activist for the LGBTQ+ community and those affected by HIV/AIDS. As well as being considered one of the leaders of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, Johnson was also a gounding maember of the Gay Liberation Front, a co-founder of S.T.A.R. along with friend Sylvia Rivera, and an activist for ACT UP. Johnson also established Transy House, a shelter in the city for trans youth rejected by their families.
“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,” Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”