A tree-sheltered walkway in Prospect Park with benches newly emblazoned with the colors of the Pan-African flag was officially unveiled on Friday as “Juneteenth Way” in a celebration of the national holiday. The unveiling celebration by the Prospect Park Alliance also marked the start of a long-planned restoration of the Lefferts Historic House and the installation of an outdoor exhibit of the work of photographer Jamel Shabazz.
The stretch of the benches located near the Children’s Corner entrance was christened with the new name and an interpretive sign installed as part of the NYC Parks Renaming Project, which sought public input over the last year about honoring the Black experience in New York City’s green spaces.
With the sound of peacocks calling from the nearby zoo, a bevy of local officials also spoke on the importance of the restoration of the adjacent 18th century Lefferts Historic House. The $2.5 million project will restore the exterior of the wood frame structure and address drainage and landscape issues.
A construction fence already surrounds the historic site and is ornamented with large-scale reproductions of some of photographer Jamel Shabazz’s work in an exhibit organized as part of a collaboration between Photoville and the Prospect Park Alliance. Shabazz started capturing views in the park in 1980 after returning from a stint in the military, aiming his camera at people and the landscape. The installation, “Prospect Park: My Oasis in Brooklyn,” focuses on the people of the park as they enjoyed their time in what Shabazz called “a place of love.” The exhibit runs through December 1, while the restoration of the historic house will continue into 2022.
“Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park is one of many cultural milestones in my district,” said Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, who will exit her post at the end of the year. “I know my neighbors and many residents cherish the local history of Brooklyn and their neighborhoods, and I cannot wait to see how Jamel Shabazz’s installation will depict the Park as the oasis it truly was, and always will be, for Brooklyners.”
This isn’t the first major restoration for the historic house. In January of 1918, after a campaign by Flatbush residents to save the home, it was lifted from its original foundation on Flatbush Avenue near Maple Street and taken on a slow, month-long journey before landing on its new foundation in Prospect Park. The house was repaired and furnished before opening to the public as a museum in 1920. It is now operated jointly by the Prospect Park Alliance and the Historic House Trust of New York City.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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