After a multi-year, $30 million upgrade, Brownsville’s Betsy Head Park has opened to the public with a new event space, athletic fields and a parkour fitness course for teenagers.
The redesign of the 10.5-acre park, which is split between two pieces of land that sit on opposite corners of Dumont Avenue, was completed in November 2020, and represents one of the largest public space investments in east Brooklyn in recent memory.
Abel Bainnson Butz (ABB), the landscape architecture firm that oversaw the renovation, said in a statement, that it had completed its work with an eye toward creating a “cohesive, inclusive and multi-generational” green space.
To that end, ABB sought to design each of the park’s two parcels to match their surrounding context, and to add creative amenities like an “inclusionary, self-competitive” basketball course designed for those with physical and mental disabilities.
The northern parcel also includes a large skate park and a multi-purpose event space with amphitheater-style seating that can be used as an outdoor classroom for nearby schools, among other purposes.
The existing Imagination Playground has been preserved, as have several of the park’s largest trees.
On the larger southern parcel, ABB added a synthetic turf field and a 4-lane running track, alongside smaller amenities like handball and basketball courts, a traverse wall, game tables, fitness equipment, seating and a renovated comfort station.
The nearby olympic-size swimming pool also remains; the city is currently in the process of replacing the pool’s mechanical system.
Throughout the design and renovation process, ABB said in its press release, the firm partnered with Brooklyn Community Board 16 and other local groups to accommodate local preferences and create a mix of active and passive space.
The renovation of the 106-year-old Betsy Head Park is part of a larger, $150 million investment by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio in capital improvements to five large parks across each of the city’s boroughs.
The five “anchor parks,” as the administration refers to them, were selected because of their size, the communities they serve, and the breadth of their amenities.
“This is about fairness,” de Blasio said when announcing the program in 2016. “We talk about fighting inequality. This is one of the most basic ways to do it. Let’s remember that for so many New Yorkers, parks are not just a place they go for a little exercise or a walk. For a lot of New Yorkers, this is where they spend their summer vacation.”
About 39,000 residents who live within a half-mile radius of Betsy Head Park, according to ABB.
The city broke ground on the Betsy Head Park renovation in March 2019. A year earlier, a report from the nonprofit New Yorkers for Parks found Brownsville’s parks were not meeting the neighborhood’s needs, and called for increased investment in open spaces.