The coronavirus got you down? Sick of watching Netflix? Why not get out of the house? Try the newest state part in the city: Shirley Chisholm State Park. Where is it, what is it, why is it? Glad you asked, let’s start with Shirley, some may not remember her, but she is surely worth remembering.
Shirley Chisholm was a Brooklyn-born-and-bred trailblazer who was the first African-American Congresswoman and the first woman and African-American to run for President! Now some may say that Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President way back in 1872. She was the leader of the suffrage movement back when women did not have the right to vote. But there is a contention here since she couldn’t vote at the time and it was considered illegal for her to run for President. The times have changed for the better!
Shirley went to Girls' High School and Brooklyn College, and served seven terms in Congress and was a tireless public servant representing inner city constituents, who up to that point had no voice. In 1972, she ran for President. Although she didn’t do very well, she won 28 delegates, which I think is more than Bloomberg got for his couple of hundred million dollars. Her campaign slogan was, “unbought and unbossed.” She didn’t care that she was a woman or black, her focus was helping people. When she left Congress, she pursued a life teaching.
Some may think that Hillary Clinton was the first woman to run for President, but Shirley had laid the path decades before. In recognition of her achievements and service, Governor Cuomo named the newest state park after her right here in New York. So where is it?
If you take the Belt Parkway either from Crossbay or Marine Park, you get off at Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn, a short 25-minute ride from Rockaway. The park is built upon the old landfill that has been rising for decades before it started its conversion to park land. It comprises over 400 acres, has 10 miles of biking and hiking trails and rises to almost 130 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest elevations in all of New York City. From the top you can see the Atlantic Highlands, the Verrazano Bridge, all of Manhattan and all of Rockaway. In a word, the views are spectacular!
You can bring your own bike or rent one when you are there. If you are a biker who does the loop between the two bridges, it is at the halfway point and worth a stop off. The state planted over 35,000 trees and the variety is startling. There are birds all over the place, every manner of duck, even those crazy Buffleheads that are black and white and go diving. I took Red Tail Trail and on cue, a red hawk appeared overhead. The park opens at 9 a.m. and is open 365 days a year. I got there at 10 a.m. this past weekend and had the park entirely to myself. There are signs alerting visitors to potential ticks, but I refrained from rolling around in the grass. Hell, I’m trying not to get the virus, now I had to worry about ticks!
There are actually two parts to the park, one side is by the Pennsylvania Ave entrance and that side has a pier that allows fishing. Along the Fresh Creek side, is a kayak program that is planned with free rentals. If you take the bridge east, you come to the Fountain Bike Connector which takes you to the second part, and larger part of the park. Here, the hills are steeper, so be prepared. This part of the park is bordered by Hendrix Creek and Old Mill Creek. When I gazed down at the water, I was amazed at how clean it was. I could see down maybe 10 feet clearly, and Hendrix Creek had several large fish (stripped bass, maybe?) just hanging out under the bridge.
Yes, it is landfill, which means that technically you are on top of a huge garbage heap, but wow what a heap! If you need to get out during the quarantine, Shirley you couldn’t go wrong here.
By Lou Pastina