BP Adams announces millions to overhaul Brooklyn War Memorial, parks

July 30, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Shown from left, front row: María Roca, founder of Friends of Sunset Park, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a check recipient, Borough President Eric Adams, Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, Prospect Park Alliance President Susan Donoghue, McGolrick Park representative, Korean War veteran. Left of BP Adams: Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. Right of BP Adams: Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.
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Brooklyn veterans, elected officials and community groups joined Borough President Eric Adams at the Brooklyn War Memorial in Cadman Plaza Park on Thursday as he unveiled his plans to allocate almost $12 million to overhaul parks across Brooklyn.

Heading the to-do list was one million dollars to kick off the restoration of the War Memorial, dedicated to the more than 300,000 “heroic men and women of the borough of Brooklyn” who served in World War II.

“Brooklyn and New York City Parks are in dire need of capital investment,” Adams told the crowd gathered for the announcement. “We are doing what we can for one park at a time, one borough at a time.”

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“I’m extremely excited about the $1 million allocation to the Brooklyn War Memorial,” he said, adding that the funding would go towards a handicap access ramp “to finally get this War Memorial open.”

Adams tied the parks’ funding in with his One Brooklyn theme, saying parks benefit not only the health of all the borough’s children, but raise property values as well.

“Parks are the great equalizer,” Adams said.  “Parks become the backyard for all new Yorkers who don’t have one, and they turn people from someone living next door to you to your neighbor.”

The funding includes roughly $500,000 to jumpstart the Brooklyn Strand project; $500,000 for the Columbia Waterfront Greenway; $1 million to fix a deteriorated ball field at Fort Hamilton High School; $350,000 for tree guards and beautification; money to install night time lighting at Hope Ballfield in Bushwick; and thousands of dollars for repairs at Cyprus, McGolrick, St. Mary’s and Ennis parks and in Prospect Park.

Officials including U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna spoke of the importance of “taking back our parks,” which gratified Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey.

“I’ve never heard elected officials speak so fluently about the importance of open space,” he laughed.

Jeffrey lauded Adams for directing more than $16 million into parks funding over the last two years – an amount that was leveraged into $36 million for capital projects across the borough.  “Let’s go build and renovate our parks,” he said.

Velázquez told the Brooklyn Eagle, “Today we are honoring the commitment Borough President Adams made to invest more public money in parks. I wish we in the federal government could have earmarks so we could bring some resources, but given the fact that that was eliminated, we are going to look into federal grants to be able to get some resources here.”

“We have for too long underfunded our parks,” Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Gowanus) told the Eagle. “In this particular case, this is the only WWII veterans’ memorial in Brooklyn. It’s a great space that so desperately needs some work. Unfortunately, there was some funding in the past that didn’t come through.  Now it’s 20 years later, with 20 years more wear and tear, and it’s not open to the public because of its condition — and it should be.”

Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, talked up the Brooklyn Strand, saying that it would unite 30 acres of open space from Borough Hall to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Toba Potosky, president of the Cadman Plaza Park Conservancy, said the million dollars for the War Memorial was “an important first step.”

Potosky said he was inspired by the inscription carved into the wall of the Memorial, which reads in part, “This memorial is dedicated to the heroic men and women of the borough of Brooklyn.”

“And what insightful person in 1951 wanted to acknowledge the contribution that women made in WWII?” he asked, to general applause.

Potosky said that Golden and Judge Cohen envisioned the Memorial as much more than it is today: “A community center and a veterans’ center.”

Former Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden tells the crowd, “One million dollars isn’t going to be enough" to rehab the Brooklyn War Memorial. Photo by Mary FrostFormer BP Golden, who has advocated for the War Memorial for decades, was fiery in his support of the project.

“The veterans have long fought to get the veterans from Brooklyn recognized,” he said. “We dedicated ourselves to bringing this building back to where it was.”

Golden originally obtained $10.5 million close to 15 years ago that was intended “to rebuild this building the way it should be for all veterans and veteran groups from the beginning of the Revolutionary War to the present time,” he said. The money, unfortunately, was diverted to other projects by the city administration after Golden left office.

Golden thanked Adams for jumpstarting the project and added, “One million dollars isn’t going to be enough. We’re going to need a lot more, and Eric [Adams] cannot be held responsible for that amount.”

He pointedly told Jeffrey, “There is only one way to accomplish this task. The moneys have to be under the control of this organization [and under the control of veterans], not the Parks Department.”

Michael Armstrong, who had served as Golden’s Director of Public Affairs, told the Eagle the million dollar allocation was a wonderful thing.

“But it’s going to take ten, twelve, fifteen million dollars to do what everybody would like to see happen. It all starts somewhere, and today’s the day,” he said.

Armstrong said an accessible elevator would have to be installed to bring people up to the Memorial area on the main floor. In addition, office space needs to be created for a veterans’ center, and plaques and the names of the  deceased Brooklynites have to be refurbished.

“We had calculated $10 million at the time, when Howard was in office, so God only knows what it would be now,” he said. “Nevertheless, it’s a new mayor, a new Parks administration, a new borough president, and all is good.”

Norman Wasserman, a WWII Medal of Honor winner who served in Europe with the 286th Field Artillery, says it’s about time the War Memorial was refurbished. Photo by Mary FrostNorman Wasserman, a WWII Congressional Medal of Honor winner who served in Europe with the 286th Field Artillery, told the Eagle that it’s about time the Memorial was refurbished.

“I felt that way on Memorial Day, when there was another ceremony here honoring Brooklyn WWII veterans alive and dead — and I hope it’s a precedent,” Wasserman said. “They should have it every year.”

His advice for the youth of today?

“Young people ought to study war and take measures and actions, however they can, to prevent war,” he said.

Also appearing were María Roca, founder of Friends of Sunset Park, Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, Prospect Park Alliance President Susan Donoghue, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (Red Hook, Sunset Park) and others.

Updated July 31 to correct the spelling of the name of Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey.




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