John J. Carty Park is nestled in a nook between and under Verrazano feeders and Fort Hamilton Parkway. An inauspicious location for a children’s playground, to be fair, but one that is not without its charms. John J. Carty (1909-1970) was born in Bay Ridge, worked in city government for 32 years, and became an expert in budgetary allocation. Opened in 1964 and renamed for him in 1971, Carty lived his life only 5 blocks from where his namesake park now sits.
It was one of the first parks to employ the helicopter parent’s dream of rubber matting (safety surfacing?) under the playground equipment. The park is often referred to as “Rubber Park” (when not just “JJ Carty”) for this reason—and not another reason, which I might have assumed after occasionally seeing discarded prophylactics in the grassy areas. A long, narrow stretch of park, it has a toddler playground with smaller play equipment for younger kids, baby swings and a strange whale sculpture slide, as well as a playground designed for older kids with proper swings and climbing apparatuses. The more advanced in age can keep active farther down at the basketball and tennis courts.
The Fort Hamilton Senior Center, opened in 1967, is housed in Rubber Park as well. Its hundreds of members enjoy access to recreation rooms, a library and a computer lab.
But the park’s state of upkeep is hard to overlook—it’s in pretty bad shape, with peeling paint, potholes, rust and the occasional shanty. That’s not to say that the park is unpleasant—far from it. It’s my daughter’s favorite, in fact. It’s just not the type of park you take your kid to when the grandparents are in town.
I’ve always wondered, as a frequent visitor to the park, who I could talk to about giving JJ Carty a facelift. As it turns out, a way to help fell into my Facebook feed with an invite to “JJ Carty Spruce Up!,” an event hosted by local charity organization Bay Ridge Cares. I reached out to BRC’s Teri Brennan to find out how they chose JJ Carty Park for this event.
Tell me a little about Bay Ridge Cares and your mission here in our neighborhood.
We know that there is a great volunteer spirit in Bay Ridge. We saw it when so many people pitched in at our post-Sandy Bay Ridge Cares Kitchen, and we see it all time with local events, food trains, fundraisers, etc. We were gratified and a bit amazed to see how passionately “Go Gold Bay Ridge” was embraced by the neighborhood. As BRC has become better known, people reach out to us regularly, looking for volunteer opportunities. The Bay Ridge Cares motto is “We’ve Got Your Back,” and we do a lot of work quietly and below the radar, helping individuals and families who are having a hard time. We think it is also important to bring the neighborhood together to focus on a single effort and wanted to organize a day of volunteering and community service.
With all the parks and playgrounds in Bay Ridge, how did Bay Ridge Cares settle on JJ Carty this year?
When we put the word out to solicit ideas, J.J. Carty Park was one of the suggestions. After doing a site visit and seeing the state of the park, as well as how many families and seniors use it, we decided to focus our energies there. Unlike many of our other local parks, Carty does not have a dedicated volunteer group, and we hope that this event may help spur some interest in building one.
JJ Carty Park had a somewhat unsavory reputation for many years and was always kind of dark and uninviting from the street. Once you are inside the gates, you find grass and trees and two nice play spaces for kids. In addition to painting the benches and picnic tables “Central Park Green,” we will have red, yellow and blue paint to add some pop with kids hand prints on the benches and hopscotch and Four Squares game boards on the pavement. We hope some fresh paint and bright colors will encourage more people to make use of this important neighborhood resource.
Does BRC have plans for more volunteer park spruce up days this summer?
Our plan is for this to be the first of many Bay Ridge Cares days of volunteering and community service in the neighborhood. We welcome ideas and suggestions for future efforts.
You can volunteer at Bay Ridge Cares’ “JJ Carty Spruce Up!” event on Saturday, June 27, from 10am-3:30pm. There will be crafts and activities for kids 4+ if you bring the littles with you. Be sure to wear painting clothes.