Bronx residents hold rally to rename Mullaly Park

On Thursday morning, Parent Action Committee, the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (BCEQ) and residents held a rally to demand the changing of the name of the park
Photos by Jason Cohen

Up the block from Yankee Stadium lies Mullaly Park, a place that is named after a man known as the father of Bronx parks, but was also known to be a racist.

John Mullaly was an agitator and instigator of the NYC Draft Riots during the Civil War. This was one of the darkest incidents in NYC history, where at least 11 Black residents were lynched, Black-owned houses and churches were burned, an orphanage for Black children was burned and in the aftermath of the riots over 5,000 Black Manhattan residents fled the borough to settle in Brooklyn.

On July 2, Parent Action Committee, the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (BCEQ) and residents held a rally to demand the changing of the name of the park. About 30 people stood outside in the sweltering heat with signs saying “Rename Mullaly Park” and chanted “Mullaly is a racist.”

“BCEQ calls upon DPR to recognize the impact of this 19th century history on our government and our city and to support the renaming,” said the BCEQ in a letter sent on June 29 to Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “Like all parks throughout NYC, this park is beloved, and actively maintained by communities of color who work together with DPR to keep their neighborhoods healthy and green.  We can no longer allow Mullaly’s racist history to stain this parkland and confront our Bronx communities with the daily reminder of his contribution to racial violence.”

The research into the history of the name of the park began four years ago, when Alan Singer, a former resident, published a piece about Mullaly on the Huffington Post.

Chauncy Young, a board member of the BCEQ, said after bringing this to the attention of the Parks Department a year ago, they are glad Parks is finally listening.

On June 19, Parks announced plans to rename parks for Black Americans with local, national or historical relevance.

New names will be revealed on Black Solidarity Day on Nov. 2, 2020.  In concert with the November renamings, Parks will temporarily change out its official park signs with specially designed signs in the colors of the Pan-African flag.

Young hopes Parks heeds their request and realizes Mullaly’s name does not belong on the park.

“There’s a history with the name Mullaly and we’re here today to say that knowing this history is important,” Young said. “Someone who thought that black people were inferior should not be the name of a park in a community that is mainly Black and Latino.”

Several residents spoke out against Mullaly and in favor of a name change. One attendee wanted the name changed to Elston Howard Park, after the first Black man to be hired by the Yankees.

Resident Yees Filizs said he recognizes that Mullaly helped create many parks, but that should not overshadow the racist things he did.

“John Mullaly has caused great harm and great pain for the Bronxites of today,” he said. “We are asking to evolve and remove the name Mullaly.”

He suggested renaming the park after a person of color who impacted the community.

Sandra Mitchell has lived in the Bronx for 50 years and was ashamed the park was named after Mullaly. She urged people to do research and find out who is behind the names of parks and streets.

“How can you name a park after someone who burned an orange,” she said. “Why would you put that name on this park?”

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