A new park in Melrose will go by the name of a legendary community fighter.
Yolanda García Park at the corner of Melrose Avenue and E 159th St. will pay tribute to a housing activist who many credit with saving Melrose residents from a 1990s city redevelopment plan that could have displaced many community members.
Hundreds gathered in the rain on June 18 for a dedication ceremony at the new park, which sat for years as a vacant lot used for trash dumping and drugs. García, who died of a heart attack in 2005, long dreamed of turning the lot into a park, according to Nos Quedamos, the advocacy group she founded.
Features of the park include a playground, spray shower area, shade elements, passive seating areas, a drinking fountain, green spaces and an adult fitness area.
Ed García Conde, who chronicles South Bronx gentrification and development on his popular blog WelcomeToTheBronx, grew up in the section of Melrose that Yolanda García fought for.
“It’s because of her that we’re still here,” he said.
Kids from the neighborhood ducked under the sectioned-off playground and mounted the jungle gym before local leaders and elected officials could cut the ribbon to open the park. Behind the swarming crowd, García’s sister Sonia leaned against a fence.
“She got her points across and she wouldn’t back down,” García said of her sister’s ability to get city officials to work with community. She and others shared stories of her sister’s tireless activism, such as how she’d honk her horn in her longtime friend and coworker Anna Vincenty’s driveway at 5:30 a.m. to coax her to accompany her on advocacy trips to Albany.
The story was updated on June 20.