City backtrack on Hell’s Kitchen Park name change after outcry


HELL’S KITCHEN, NY – The city has canceled plans to rename Hell’s Kitchen Park after a famous black playwright after neighbors complained that the plan was contributing to the neighborhood’s ongoing name erasure.

Instead, an yet-to-be-built plaza across the street will eventually be named after Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright known for her 1959 tragedy “Grape in the Sun,” the parks department said on Wednesday.

The department said last week that Hansberry would be the new namesake for Hell’s Kitchen Park, on 10th Avenue between West 47th and 48th Street – one of 15 green spaces in the five boroughs that the city planned to rename to “honor the black experience in New York. “

Neighbors, however, reacted angrily to the surprise announcement, telling W42ST that they had received no notice that the 42-year-old park would be renamed.

Plus, they said, the change was part of a trend in which the colorful Hell’s Kitchen name was gradually phased out in favor of more favorable real estate terms like Clinton.

On Wednesday, the parks department said it had listened to the comments and would reverse the change – a move first reported by W42ST.

This not-yet-built plaza on 10th Avenue, just one block north of the park, will be the renowned Lorraine Hansberry Plaza, the parks department said. (New York Department of Parks)

“In response to the concern of the Hell’s Kitchen community over what they believe to be extensive efforts to erase the name and character of the neighborhood, we have decided to restore the [name] Hell’s Kitchen Park“said a spokesperson.

Plaza details unveiled

The sites selected for the name change were mostly chosen through input from the public and community leaders. Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver chose the final names and locations, the ministry said.

The initial name change seemed to have some resonance in the Heavy Theater District. Hansberry, whose seminal work explored segregation and poverty in Chicago, died of cancer in 1965 at the age of 34.

However, the playwright’s name would one day appear in the neighborhood: a future plaza on the west side of 10th Avenue, between West 48th and 49th Streets, would be called Lorraine Hansberry Plaza.

This square is on the so-called “DEP site”, a long vacant plot of land so named because it belongs to the Department of Environmental Protection. The city plans to build an eight-story building on the land, comprising more than 150 affordable apartments and the small plaza on the 10th Avenue side, although Community Board 4 criticized the plans for not being affordable enough.

The future plaza will be built on the “DEP site”, a long empty block on the west side of 10th Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets. (Nick Garber / Patch)

The eventual plaza will feature a circular grass pitch, tables and umbrellas, benches, trees and planters, according to a schematic plan the city shared with Patch. It will be managed by the Parks Department once built.

The amended plans were welcomed by neighborhood leaders, including the president of the 47-48th Street Block Association, who told W42ST that the town’s overthrow was “wonderful news.”

Hell’s Kitchen Park was a parking lot until the 1960s, when the city bought it for $ 400,000 in response to the neighborhood’s demands for more recreation space. After delays, the playground opened to the public in 1979 and was maintained by the 47th / 48th Street Block Association, which held meetings there, according to a story from the Parks Department.

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