New designs unveiled for Marsha P Johnson State Park after controversial plans ditched

Marsha P Johnson

The brand new design for the Marsha P Johnson State Park has been unveiled after initial plans were scrapped following complaints from the trans hero’s own family.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced last year that Brooklyn’s East River State Park would be renamed for Johnson, making it “the first state park to honour an LGBT+ person”.

But the tribute was halted in March when Black trans activists raised concerns about the “harsh thermoplastic colours and extended cement slabs”, while Johnson’s family accused the city of “exploiting” her name for publicity.

“I personally feel this was a mass deception campaign and our family was deceived,” Johnson’s cousin James Carey said, as reported by the Brooklyn Paper. “From this point forward, no one will be trying to exploit my cousin’s name without consulting with my family.”

The designs have since had an overhaul after the planning agency involved the community in workshops and an online survey to gather feedback on how to properly pay tribute.

“We’ve had really great conversations and just really appreciate everybody’s passion for joining in the project and this is your park,” state parks regional director for New York City, Leslie Wright, told Community Board 1’s Parks and Waterfront Committee in a virtual meeting on 5 May.

Manhattan landscape architects Starr Whitehouse have agreed to remove a large painting of Johnson’s face and swap it for a series of commemorative plaques, along with a mosaic of a poem written by Johnson leading to the shoreline.

The large concrete slabs, which were originally to be painted in vivid rainbow colours, will be shrunk down to add almost four basketball courts’ worth of greenery to the waterfront lawn on Kent Avenue.

Other naturalistic elements like log benches will be placed along the waterfront and a series flower gardens is set to be planted around a circular path.

The park remains under construction and will wrap up in June, with plans to open up the space by the end of August.

Officials will meet with locals again in the fall to discuss more ways to commemorate Marsha P Johnson, such as a statue or a public art work at the entrance to the park.