Shirley Chisholm State Park opened to the public July 2019, bringing over 10 miles of new biking and hiking trails to the shores of south Brooklyn. New York City's newest state park transforms a former landfill into a lovely waterfront destination accessible from the Belt Parkway or the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Canarsie and East New York. For a look at the new park and a peek at what's next, read on.
When I arrived at Shirley Chisholm State Park, I thought the landfills of my youth were a figment of my imagination. The site is the former home of the Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue landfills, which were operated by New York City Department of Sanitation from 1956 to 1983. After the landfills closed, the land was deeded to the National Park Service to reclaim and repurpose into a public park. The first of two separate $20 million construction phases has just completed, creating a haven for wildlife and New York residents alike.
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Colorful artwork honors Shirley Chisholm in the new Brooklyn state park that bears her name.
Today coastal meadows, wetlands, and woodlands have replaced the landfills. Fresh bay breezes, colorful public art, and cyclists enjoying the new trails all welcome you. It's an opportunity to stretch your legs, have a snack, and take a break when traveling in the car with children in tow along the Belt Parkway to Coney Island, Staten Island, or Long Island, or an opportunity to hop on a bike from the Shirley Chisholm Bike Library and ride the trails through the marsh. In addition to biking, there's fishing, hiking, bird watching, and picnicking in this once-uninhabitable and now diverse ecosystem. Here are 5 things to do with kids at Shirley Chisholm State Park.
Grab a loaner bike from the Bike Library and take a tour of the park.
Ride a Bicycle
The park boasts 10 miles of biking and hiking trails, both gravel and paved. The Shirley Chisholm State Park Bike Library offers loaner bikes and helmets for patrons of all ages. Loaner bikes are available at the Bike Library, Thursday-Sunday 11am-6pm.
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Trek through the park on a nature walk.
Go on a Nature Walk
As part of the reclamation process, clean soil, trees, shrubs, and native grassland species have been added to the site. Waterfront access can be found on Penn Pier and Hendrix Creek Patio, and while swimming is prohibited, the beaches are fun to explore. Future plans call for a pier extending out from the waterfront, but kids will love running down the narrow metal pier that currently extends out into Jamaica Bay.
Learn About a Brooklyn-Born Trailblazer
Named in honor of the NYC representative who was the first African American woman to be elected to Congress and the first African American woman to run for president, the park teaches kids about the life of Shirley Chisholm via signage and public art.
Take in the Views
Shirley Chisholm State Park rises to 130 feet above sea level—the highest natural point in Brooklyn—where the hilltop offers panoramic views of the Empire State Building to the northwest, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and New York Harbor to the west, and Jamaica Bay to the south. Shaded picnic tables and benches offer an inviting spot to sit and rest after the trek to the top.
Make art at the park!
Draw or Paint the Landscape
With the waterfront views, birdwatching, and wildlife, this is a great park to bring your watercolors, markers, or pastels. My daughter brought along art supplies to sketch the landscape. My other two used a rock to draw a Tic-Tac-Toe board on the asphalt. It turned out to be quite the spectacle as pedestrians, and cyclists of all ages stopped by to discuss their drawings—just one more proof that good parks help build strong communities in NYC.
Photos by the author