New York City park to be renamed after Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson (Photo: The Death and Life of Marsh P. Johnson/Netflix)

A park in New York City is to be renamed after LGBTQ-rights activist Marsha P. Johnson

The news was announced by New York state governor Andrew Cuomo at the HRC Gala dinner in New York City on Saturday night.

At the event, which took place at the Marriott Marquis hotel near Times Square, Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to making New York as inclusive as possible. He said his goal was to make New York, “the leading champion in the nation for the LGBTQ community. Period. 

“This year, we’re going to name the first state park after an LGBTQ person. We’re going to name it after Marsha Johnson, an icon of the community.”

In a tweet, Cuomo gave further details.

“I’m proud to announce that East River State Park in Brooklyn will be named in honor of Marsha P. Johnson, a pioneer of the LGBTQ rights movements.

“NY unequivocally supports the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers, now and always.”

Offering visitors a great view of the Manhattan skyline, the park is a seven-acre waterfront site located along the East River in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. 

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Johnson was born in New Jersey in 1945. A trans pioneer, she told interviewers in later life that she began wearing dresses at around the age of five. She participated in the seminal Stonewall uprising in June 1969, which is credited with giving birth to the modern LGBTQ rights movement. 

She also took part in the first Christopher Street Liberation Pride in 1970, on the first anniversary of the uprising. 

Johnson and fellow LGBTQ activist Sylvia Rivera advocated for the plight of homeless LGBTI street youth and sex workers. At a time before the common use of the word transgender, the two friends co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) group in 1970. They were also involved with the fledgling Gay Liberation Front.

Both gender non-conforming, Johnson and Rivera adopted various labels throughout their lives. Rivera resurrected STAR in 2001, changing the word ‘transvestite’ to ‘transgender’.

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Following a lifetime of advocacy, Johnson died in 1992 at the age of 46 in mysterious circumstances. Police found her body floating in the Hudson River. Although authorities ruled her death as suicide, she had a head wound and some believe others could have been involved.

Her life story was told in the moving 2017 Netflix documentary, The Death and Life of Martha P. Johnson,

This is not the first time moves have been made to commemorate Johnson. Last year, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, announced that monuments to both Johnson and Rivera were to be commissioned and placed in a permanent location, slated to be close to Christopher Street (home of the Stonewall Inn). No further details on when the monuments will appear have yet been released.