Honoring History and Breaking Ground

In the Press

Honoring History and Breaking Ground

Councilmember Lander at JJ Byrne Park Groundbreaking
Miriam Coleman
Park Slope Patch
05/10/2011

“This, as you know, is hallowed ground, an historic site,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said Tuesday while standing in front of the Old Stone House in Washington Park. He was there to host a ground-breaking ceremony for the reconstruction of J.J. Byrne Playground, along with City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, Borough Commissioner Kevin E. Jeffrey, Old Stone House Executive Director Kim Maier, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“Marty was just a young man at the time,” Benepe continued, “but he does tell me he was here for the Battle of Long Island, where a company of soldiers from Maryland held off British General Cornwallis’s troops, who had captured the Old Stone House.”

All joking aside, the lore of that 1776 Revolutionary War battle and the echoes of colonial history played an important role in plans for the playground’s renovation. A new spray shower evoking a mill stream, play equipment designed to bring the colonial period to mind, and a reconstruction of the original Old Stone House’s foundations are all in the plans for the new playground.

“We’re just giving it a respectful entry to the house to sort of put you in the spirit,” said landscape architect Patricia Clark as she described how richly-colored and rustically-textured materials like natural stone and exposed aggregate concrete will add to the historic effect.

The colonial mood was further summoned on this bright spring day by the fife-and-drum music piped in through speakers before the ceremony began.

The reconstruction of J.J. Byrne Playground, which will also include new drinking fountains, swings, landscaping, and a separate todder area, marks the third phase of Washington Park’s facelift. (The work was actually started in April.) Its cost, totalling more than $4 million, was funded by joint capital allocations from the Borough President, councilmembers Lander and Levin and Mayor Bloomberg, in addition to a state grant from Assembymember Joan Millman.

Kim Maier offered high praise for this spirit of cooperation. “One of the tenets of democracy is this idea of coming together, of a town square, where people have a sense of community, and I think that’s what we see here.”

As the event ended with ceremonial shovels hurling dirt toward the onlookers, the fife and drums on the speakers struck up again to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.”

"The only negative I have to say is that the playground is closed at the beginning of a beautiful spring and summer season," joked Windsor Terrance resident Tricia Bastian, who had come to watch the ceremony with her husband and two dogs. "But other than that, I think it’s great that they’re going forward with it, and the Stone House is a treasure. It’s the Revolutionary War--this is a big part of the Battle of Brooklyn.”

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