Lorraine Hansberry Plaza
Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history.
Lorraine Hansberry Plaza, in Manhattan, honors an LGBT individual.
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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 public parks and playgrounds named after gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, several of which intentionally honor an LGBT individual. This list includes Lorraine Hansberry Plaza, in Manhattan.
The property is owned by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for access to the third water tunnel of the city’s water infrastructure. As of December 2021, it is being developed into a public park by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and construction will take place over the next few years. It was named for playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry in 2021 in honor of the Black experience in New York City, and also for her LGBT history. 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 three-and-a-half blocks from the Barrymore Theater.
This neighborhood started being called “Hell’s Kitchen” by the police in the 1870s. The community started requesting more recreation spaces in the 1960s.
Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (September 2021).
NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.
Elise Harris, “The Double Life of Lorraine Hansberry,” Out, September 1999, pp. 96-101, 174-175.
Imani Perry, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (Boston: Beacon Press, 2018).
Kevin Mumford, “Opening the Restricted Box: Lorraine Hansberry’s Lesbian Writing,” OutHistory, bit.ly/2pclVHA.
Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, “Opening Remarks to Outing Lorraine at the Schomburg Center,” CUNY Academic Works, City University of New York, 2014.
Trish Bendix, “Lorraine Hansberry’s Secret Lesbian Herstory Touched Upon in New Documentary,” Into, January 18, 2018, bit.ly/2tNhvMl.
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