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Marsha P. Johnson State Park
Photograph: Courtesy New York State Parks

New York dedicates East River State Park to LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson

A number of upgrades to the park were also announced at the official announcement.

By
Will Gleason
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New Yorkers now have a brand-new reason to love one of the city’s best waterfront parks.

This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that East River State Park in Williamsburg would be dedicated to LGBTQ civil rights activist Marsha P. Johnson. That’s a huge deal for a number of reasons, but two interesting facts are that it marks the first time a New York State Park has honored an LGBTQ person and transgender woman of color. About time!

The announcement also revealed that it would be more than just the park’s name getting an upgrade. Additional improvements, set to be completed by next summer, include a new park house and education center, resurfacing deteriorating concrete, new park furniture and, coolest of all, a public art installation honoring the life of Marsha P. Johnson. That installation will stand alongside interpretive materials on Johnson’s life as well as information on the larger LGBTQ movement.

"Too often, the marginalized voices that have pushed progress forward in New York and across the country go unrecognized, making up just a fraction of our public memorials and monuments," said Governor Cuomo in a statement. "Marsha P. Johnson was one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ movement, and is only now getting the acknowledgement she deserves. Dedicating this state park for her, and installing public art telling her story, will ensure her memory and her work fighting for equality lives on." 

Johnson was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS treatment. During her life, she was a leader of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, a founding member of the Gay Liberation front, an activist with ACT UP and a co-founder of S.T.A.R. with Sylvia Rivera. She also established a shelter in the city for young LGBTQ individuals who were rejected by their families. 

East River State Park is a seven-acre waterfront park in Williamsburg that hosts a number of popular events including the well-known food festival Smorgasburg, which is open this summer as Smorg-to-go.

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