New Multi-Lingual Signage at Greenpoint’s McGolrick Park Omits Polish

A woman stands at the entrance to McGolrick Park, where new signs have omitted Polish (Paul Stremple/Bklyner)

GREENPOINT – All down Nassau Avenue on the approach to McGolrick Park, Polish signs can be seen on the storefronts, like Kubuś Photo Service, Cracovia Liquors, Jaslowiczanka Bakery or Krajan Polish Deli.

But at McGolrick Park, which runs from Nassau to Driggs between Russell and Monitor, all of the new signs welcoming neighbors to the park and outlining the Parks Department rules have omitted Polish, one of the most commonly spoken languages in the neighborhood.

Eight new signs recently went up in the park, one at each entrance, listing the standard NYC Parks Department rules in English, Spanish and Yiddish. Previously, signs listed park rules in English, Spanish and Polish—though only one of the old signs is left, off to the side, on the fence near the entrance at Nassau and Russell.

One of the old signs from the park, which features English, Spanish and Polish (Paul Stremple/Bklyner)

The development has sparked concern amid the local Polish community, which, like many old-guard communities in Brooklyn, has felt the squeeze of increasing rents, demographic shift and gentrification as North Brooklyn’s population has boomed. Now, even the park seems to be slipping away.

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But, according to a Parks Department spokesperson, Polish being excluded on the signs was an “anomaly,” based on the way languages are determined for different locations.

Though McGolrick Park is in the heart of Polish-speaking Greenpoint, the Parks Department uses the top three languages from the entire Community Board where the site is located. In CB1, which encompasses not only Greenpoint, but all of Williamsburg as well, those top three languages are English, Spanish and Yiddish.

Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-33), who represents much of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, called the inclusion of Polish on the signs in McGolrick Park “common sense.”

“It has been that way previously,” said Levin. “And Greenpoint has a several-generation history of being a home to the Polish population in New York.”

Earlier today, the Councilmember sent a letter to the Parks Department’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, Martin Maher, requesting that “signage be installed that has the park rules in Polish and that the change be done as soon as possible.”

“While I understand that the policy is to use the top three languages in the respective community boards I believe we can all agree that Greenpoint has a sufficiently large number of Polish speaking residents and that to include Polish on any park signage, as it has been in the past, is more than warranted, especially at McGolrick,” Levin wrote.

According to the Parks Department, a review of the request is underway, and an update may be available as soon as next week.

“Our interest is always to make sure that parks are broadly accessible, and we recognize that signage is a big part of that,” said a Parks Department spokesperson.

Though the signs may have omitted a key element of McGolrick’s history, recent projects at McGolrick Park have led to improvements, like the brand new children’s playground at the north end of the park. Currently, a project for path reconstruction in the park is in the procurement phase, set to wrap up next month before construction begins.

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Paul Stremple

Paul was a staff reporter at Bklyner, responsible for covering Northern and Eastern parts of Brooklyn between August 2017 and January 2019.

Comments

  1. Ha. Rampant gentrification is not only pushing life-long residents out like disposable trash,
    but —as reflected in the Parks Dept signage — it’s treating those that are still here as invisible.

    And of course the City did nor care to make long needed improvements to the parks in this area
    until the wealthier folks moved in. Previously this community board was a dumping ground for polluting industry, oil spills, incinerators, & trash haulers –and no one gave a damn for many long decades. And during those decades it was the substantial Polish-American presence in the area that nonetheless made this a thriving community in the midst of nothing but neglect by the City.
    As Bob Dylan once sang: “money doesn’t talk – it swears”.

    And in the blocks surrounding this park there still are many PolishAmerican residents who continue to do the same,despite seemingly being invisible to the Parks Dept. Fortunately the MTA in its notices recognizes this and includes the Polish language in its rider notifications and signage. The MTA looks at the population in the immediate surrounding neighborhood in this regard, not the whole community board. The Parks Dept should also do the same.

    A big part of what made New York City great & unique & beautiful is that it’s a welcoming mosaic of languages and vibrant cultures and we need to respect and cherish that fact, as well as our immigrant heritage, history & present day reality.

  2. As a former resident of Greenpoint I remember when McGolrick park was called Winthrop park and the public school 110 was known the monitor,
    Greenpoint has changed and grown.

  3. It is not an ethnic slight but typical of lazy bureaucracy that establishes rules without insight. As an urban ethnographer, it would make sense to see who actually uses the park and whether they can read English. Great projects for local high school and/or college students. For a hint on ethnic and other changes in the area and beyond see: Jerome Krase and Judith N. DeSena’s “Race, Class, and Gentrification in Brooklyn: A View from the Street.” Every public library in Brooklyn should have a copy.

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