A ribbon-cutting ceremony at Estella Diggs Park in Morrisania on Tuesday, August 29, marked completion of the second phase of development to beautify the site.
The park pays homage to the legacy of Diggs, who was the first black woman elected in 1972 to represent the Bronx in the NYS Assembly, sponsoring or co-sponsoring over six dozen bills.
Her legislative efforts promoted economic development, improved housing, social services and education.
“What you see on this Phase 2 is a $2 million renovation to expand this park,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “We took a previously vacant section of the park and installed a new pathway, seating areas, landscaping and play equipment.”
Silver said the park is for multiple generations, a space that people can visit not just for physical health, but also for mental health.
And he wants to make sure that Diggs’ legacy continues in this park.
“Our hope is that parks like this will encourage kids to come outside, engage with their neighbors and give back to their community much like Estella Diggs herself,” Silver said.
The funding for Phase 2 was provided by Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson ($1.48 million), and by Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. ($500,000).
“I am so thankful that we are here providing such an opportunity for our children and our families to say that the life, the legacy and the labor of love of Assemblywoman Estella Diggs will live on through this park,” Gibson said.
The councilwoman thanked Diggs’ children, Joyce Diggs and Larry Diggs and their entire family, “for sharing your loved one with all of us. May her life and legacy live on for generations to come through the wonderful and beautiful Estella Diggs Park.”
Gibson noted that Diggs was the founder of the first piece of legislation to create the Woman, Infants and Children program in the state of New York.
“Even today, we still have the WIC program,” Gibson said. “She was someone that stood tall and stood firm for children and for families and recognized that God gave her a purpose.”
Gibson added that “when we invest in parks, we invest in our children and when we invest in our children and families, we invest in the future of this borough and this city.”
Diaz recalled the path Diggs took on her way to making history.
“Estella Diggs was born on April 21, 1916, in St. Louis Missouri,” Diaz said. “She would eventually find her way to the Morrisania community of the Bronx. She attended Pace University, City College and New York University – an educated black woman.”
Diaz explained how Diggs followed numerous career paths, including that of a career counselor and that of a writer.
Where she made her mark, however, was when she was elected to serve in the NYS Assembly.
Helping draft over 70 pieces of legislation – bills that became law, made Diggs a prodigious legislator in her seven years of service to that legislative body.
Diggs passed away in 2013, two days shy of her 97th birthday.
“Originally this park was named Rocks and Roots Park due to its very challenging topography and numerous rock outcroppings,” Diaz said. “Honoring the contributions that Miss Diggs made to the Bronx community, on Nov. 7, 2011, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation dedicated this park by renaming it after her.”