•    The Namesake-Sunset Park   

    The Namesake

    Sunset Park

    In the city of many worlds that is comprised of more than hundred neighborhoods, each with a distinct name, it is indeed not difficult to find names of neighborhoods that have “Park” in them. Some examples: Sunset Park, Rego Park, Park Slope, Borough Park… and the list goes on. A more interesting quest would be to figure out how many of them have actually derived their names from city’s parks. Probably not that many.

    It happens that this neighborhood is actually named after a large park that is still well alive today! (I find this exciting because my town, Palisades Park, derived its name from a very popular amusement park that was demolished long time ago.) Located between 5th and 7th Avenues, Sunset Park is vital to the community especially to its families— on a good sunny day, people gather to enjoy the weather, socialize with their friends, and play soccer in the park. People are on mats and blankets on grass, chatting with each other. Many also like to buy tacos from local restaurants and eat them on grass, watching the Manhattan skyline and perhaps the magnificent sunset. We actually watched the sunset in Sunset Park while eating tacos. How meaningful is that!

    Before the neighborhood was officially named “Sunset Park,” northern part of the neighborhood was commonly called Gowanus or South Brooklyn, and southern part was actually a part of Bay Ridge. In 1891, the City of Brooklyn bought land for public parks, including Sunset Park. Originally, there was a golf course in the area for many years, enjoyed by the Irish residents as New York was their city at the time, and a popular pastime was “trying to beat local resident Fall Mitchell’s record score of ninety for eighteen holes.” No one probably beat it. Church baseball teams used to constitute a strong presence on Sundays. When Scandinavians came, soccer and track/field became more popular. Norwegians even brought skis and snowshoes to the hills of the park. Today, people are found playing soccer and chatting in Spanish, as the park is so accessible from 5th Avenue.

    The park was partially responsible for the growth of the neighborhood. In the early 20th century, a large park in center of the town lured many immigrants, as well as the growing industry, transportation network, and undeveloped land near Sunset Park.

    All immigrants that had occupied the neighborhood at some point familiarized themselves and practiced this custom of already existing Sunset Parkers: enjoying the park to the fullest extent! And every immigrant group brought different ways, sports, and gears to enjoy it. Given the timeless nature of the park as a center of people’s lives and enjoyment, perhaps it was not so difficult to name the whole neighborhood “Sunset Park” after all.

    Reference

    Ment, David, and Mary S. Donovan. The People of Brooklyn: a History of Two Neighborhoods. [Brooklyn]: Brooklyn Educational & Cultural Alliance, 1980. Print.