NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, today joined President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Regina Myer, City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, the family of Jazz legend Betty Carter and the community to cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Betty Carter Park — formerly called BAM park — in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership was a partner in managing the reconstruction of the site.
“Betty Carter is a Jazz legend but more than that she was a pillar in her community. Naming this park in her honor is a testament to her contributions and a nod to her legacy,” said Commissioner Silver. “After undergoing $3.2 million in renovations, this park will be a site for passive recreation, performances, and community programming. With all it has to offer it is worthy to bear Betty Carter’s name and will be a community hub in the Downtown Brooklyn area for generations to come.”
President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Regina Myer said, “We are thrilled to have completed work on schedule, and to have opened the park while we still have some great weather! It is also wonderful to open the project under its new name: Betty Carter Park. This project brings much-needed open space for residents, workers, and visitors, at the heart of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District, and serves as a permanent tribute to one of Brooklyn’s great artists.”
The triangular 10,000-square-foot park, located opposite the Brooklyn Academy of Music underwent a $3.2 million revamp. The project was funded by New York State in the amount of $2.1 million and the City allocated $1.1 million. The new and improved park now features more open space, seamless integration between the park and the surrounding streetscape, new plantings, benches in the shape of pebbles, and a raised deck area provides a place for performances and programming.
In addition to the park’s renovations, the space has also been renamed to honor a neighborhood cultural icon Betty Carter (1929-1998), a jazz legend and former local resident. She is regarded as one the nation’s most adventurous jazz vocalists. Born Lillie Mae Jones on May 16, 1929 in Flint, Michigan, Carter was raised in Detroit by her father, James Jones, a musical director at a local church, and her mother Bessie. Throughout her career, Betty Carter won a Grammy for Best Female Jazz Vocal Performance. Her other accolades include numerous industry awards, NEA Jazz Master, and the National Medal of Arts presented by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Over the years Carter forged a relationship with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, performing at BAM on seven occasions between 1974 and 1995.
The property was once home to small-scale residential and commercial buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the early 1980s, the City took possession of the land for urban renewal. The triangle was managed by Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), who commissioned landscape architect Lee Weintraub to design a public space named BAM Park. Opened in 1984, the park hosted local concerts by the Brooklyn Music School where Betty Carter took cello lessons and was a big supporter.