Within Cadman Plaza Park is the Brooklyn War Memorial, a granite and limestone tribute to the more than 300,000 brave men and women from the borough who served in World War II. Inside the memorial, more than 11,000 names of Brooklynites who died during the war are memorialized — but visitors cannot see them, as the structure has been closed since 1990.
That will all change if the Cadman Park Conservancy and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership get their way. The two groups, along with Hudson Companies, hosted the inaugural Brooklyn War Memorial Honors in the park on Sunday to kick off a GoFundMe campaign that aims to raise $1.5 million to restore and reopen the memorial.
“This building, which is insufficient in size and usage, has been sorely neglected over the years,” said former Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden. “It must be replaced by a larger facility to keep pace with the purpose and the growth of our great borough.”
The New York City Parks Department has set aside $3 million to build ramps, but the GoFundMe campaign will supplement that to make the building fully ADA-compliant. This is a part of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s Brooklyn Strand proposal, which aims to connect Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Bridge Park via pedestrian-friendly green spaces.
It’s not just ramps that need to be installed — the memorial also needs a new roof, electric, plumbing, glass, insulation, stonework and an elevator, according to the GoFundMe page. Many local politicians, including Adams, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, state Sens. Daniel Squadron and Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblymember Jo Ann Simon and Councilmember Steve Levin, were on hand to voice their support.
“Brooklyn is proud of its veterans, both past and present, and Memorial Day is but one of countless occasions throughout the year for us to say thank you with words and actions alike,” Adams said. “In that spirit, and in tribute to the over 11,000 Brooklynites who gave their lives during World War II, I ask all to join me in the effort to reopen the Brooklyn War Memorial.”
Velazquez (D-Bushwick-Red Hook) told the Eagle that the significance of Sunday’s event was both to honor the heroes of WWII and also “to recommit ourselves as a nation in terms of providing the services that our heroes, our veterans who are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, need in order to readjust. And to show our commitment to make sure that whatever transition they go through, we are there to assist them.”
“It’s a wonderful memorial, and it has lived in obscurity for so long. I’m delighted that we’re able, in a public way, to bring attention to this memorial to the greatest generation,” Assemblyperson Jo Anne Simon (Brooklyn Heights-Gowanus) told the Brooklyn Eagle. “This would be a great public education facility. It’s a beautiful memorial with a wonderful interior space that we’re not using, and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to try to open it up.”
“I think it’s important to come here on Memorial Day and say thank you for all those who served,” Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Mount Sinai told the Brooklyn Eagle. “We are alive today because of those who are ready to give their lives, so it’s an honor to be here.”
“It has been an honor to be a part of this all-volunteer effort,” said Toba Potosky, president of the Cadman Park Conservancy. “The liberties and freedoms we enjoy today are a direct result of their service. Hopefully next year we can hold this ceremony inside a re-opened Brooklyn War Memorial.”
The event marking the 70th anniversary of V-E Day also featured the Team Red White and Blue 5K Challenge, followed by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Presentation of Color and the American Bombshells performed the National Anthem. Brigadier General Loree K. Sutton, M.D., also offered remarks.
Sutton, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs, presented 26 veterans with plaques. Rev. James Blakely was honored by Montgomery, who presented him with a memorial that will hang in the NYS Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
Anyone interested in helping to reopen the war memorial is encouraged to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign by going to www.brooklynwarmemorial.org.
—Additional reporting by Mary Frost