J.J. Byrne Playground, Now Open for Fun

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In an event that celebrated a playground reborn and Park Slope’s Revolutionary history, local leaders — many of whom were dressed as members of the Continental Army — cut the ribbon for the renovated J.J. Byrne Playground.

The ceremony, held on a sunny May 11, marked the completion of the third phase of renovations to Washington Park, the open space that’s also home to the playground and the historic Old Stone House. The reconstruction effort included new play equipment for toddlers and pre-teens; ample room for free play; and natural stone, pavement finishes, and plantings suitable for a colonial house. The project was funded by Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Brad Lander, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assmeblymember Joan Millman, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“If this beautiful playground is not the most used playground in Brooklyn, I don’t know what is,” Markowitz said at the ceremony, which was already crowded with kids before the official opening. “It’s government working at its best.”

“This is truly the kind of partnership in the government and the community that makes us proud, ” said Lander, referring to efforts to renovate the park, playground, and the Old Stone House by local leaders, Community Board 6, Old Stone House Executive Director Kim Maier and the OSH board members, and the residents of Park Slope.

The site of the Old Stone House — a reconstructed 1699 Dutch farmhouse — is perhaps best known for its place in the Battle of Brooklyn. Taking place a month after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the battle was the first major conflict for the new United States and the largest of the American Revolution. In the battle, the American army was surrounded and overwhelmed by larger British forces. Holding actions centered on the original house allowed General George Washington’s troops to escape and continue the fight for independence.

“The country wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for what happened here,” Levin said. “It’s a worthy reminder of their sacrifice and patriotism.”

“This is Park Slope’s Times Square,” said Maier, who was not in colonial garb. She noted another important role for Washington Park in local history: One day shy of 129 years ago, the Brooklyn baseball club had its first game in the park.

Also joining in the ceremony was Borough Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey.

“The Old Stone House is thrilled that the new playground has been met with such enthusiasm, ” Maier added later. “We’re now embarking on our next development phase: a new interpretive exhibit for the first-floor gallery, as well as planning for a new building at the end of Fourth Street that would include another community space, an office for the park manager, new bathrooms, and storage. We hope the building project will happen in conjunction with the renovation of the 4th Street cul-de-sac as a public plaza space.’

Learn more about the Old Stone House — its historic past, its many events today, and future plans — at theoldstonehouse.org.

Written and photographed by David Herman

— from the June 2012 Civic News

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