overview

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history.

Lorraine Hansberry Park, in Manhattan, inadvertently honors an LGBT individual.

Header Photo
Courtesy of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

History

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project compiled a list of 13 public parks and playgrounds named after gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, several of which intentionally honor an LGBT individual. This list includes Lorraine Hansberry Park, in Manhattan.

Formerly known as Hell’s Kitchen Park, it was re-named for Lorraine Hansberry in 2021 in honor of the Black experience in New York City, and also inadvertently for her LGBT history. African-American playwright and activist Hansberry (1930-1965) moved to New York City in 1950. In 1956, she began what would become her best known work: a dramatic play about a Black family in her native, segregated Chicago, called A Raisin in the Sun. Its New York premiere in 1959, at the Ethel Barrymore Theater at 243-251 West 47th Street, made Hansberry the first Black woman to have a play staged on Broadway. Even before the play’s success, she privately identified as a lesbian and wrote letters, under a pseudonym, to The Ladder, the monthly national publication of the Daughters of Bilitis, the nation’s first lesbian organization. This park is two-and-a-half blocks from the Barrymore Theater.

The neighborhood started being called “Hell’s Kitchen” by the police in the 1870s. After the community requested more recreation spaces in the 1960s, the City approved the acquisition of a parking lot here through condemnation in 1966. The project was delayed for years, and the playground opened in 1979.

Sources

  1. Elise Harris, “The Double Life of Lorraine Hansberry,” Out, September 1999, pp. 96-101, 174-175.

  2. “Hell’s Kitchen Park,” NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, on.nyc.gov/3ogDKVB.

  3. Imani Perry, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (Boston: Beacon Press, 2018).

  4. Kevin Mumford, “Opening the Restricted Box: Lorraine Hansberry’s Lesbian Writing,” OutHistory, bit.ly/2pclVHA.

  5. Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, “Opening Remarks to Outing Lorraine at the Schomburg Center,” CUNY Academic Works, City University of New York, 2014.

  6. Trish Bendix, “Lorraine Hansberry’s Secret Lesbian Herstory Touched Upon in New Documentary,” Into, January 18, 2018, bit.ly/2tNhvMl.

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

124-130 West 43rd Street
Stephen Sondheim Theater (originally Henry Miller’s Theater)
Performance Venues
230-238 West 49th Street
Eugene O’Neill Theater (originally Forrest Theater)
Performance Venues
254 West 54th Street
Studio 54 (originally Gallo Opera House)
Bars, Clubs & Restaurants