Gerritsen Creek is a freshwater stream that replenishes the salt marsh with fresh water even after the creek north of Avenue U was turned into an underground storm drain. Due to the discoveries of food preparation pits aged from 800 to 1400 AD, it is believed that the creek was a favorite of Indians living in the Keshawchqueren village nearby. The Dutch were the original settlers of this land because of the salt marsh resemblance to their native Holland. Their diets, which consisted of livestock, farm produce, game, oysters and clams, back up the findings of oyster shells, deer and turtle bones and sturgeon scales in the preparation pits. The Creek got its name from Wolfert Gerritsen, a Dutch settler who built a gristmill on the land.
Fearing plans of turning Jamaica Bay into a port for large ships and destroying Gerritson Creek, Frederick B. Pratt and Alfred T. White donated 150 acres to the city in 1917 to be made into a public park.
Seven years later the city accepted the offer and in 1937 more land was bought that brought the park’s total to 1822 acres. It was named Brooklyn Marine Park in the same year. After transferring 1024 acres to the National Park Service to be included in the Gateway National Recreation Area, the park is left with the 798 acres it has today.
Although Marine Park is a clean and serene place today, it was not always so in the past. In the mid-20th century, the area was abused by trash and abandoned cars. In the New York Times article, Neighborhoods: Serenity of Marine Park is Periled, from September 4, 1970, Steven R. Weisman states, “the residents…have become reluctantly accustomed to the use of one of the city’s largest recreation areas as a private dumping ground for debris and stolen cars.” At the time, Marine Park was not taken care of by the Parks Department so the Marine Park neighbors needed to maintain the park and its facilities. However, the neighbors still loved the park the same way they do today. In the article, Weisman writes, “The neighbors agree that Marine Park is what gives their community the cohesiveness they cherish.” One of the volunteers in the park said, “People come here and they can’t believe they’re still in the city. It’s so peaceful. I wouldn’t live any place else.” This type of love for the neighborhood around Marine Park and the park itself is still felt by the residents today.
Through hard work and pressure put on by the residents of Marine Park, local officials made it a duty to spend $30 million to build the park from the salt marshes upward, see NY Times: WALKER DEDICATES MARINE PARK FIELD. Nowadays the local residents are seeking funding for a senior center, a project that halted amid budget cuts and tough economic times for Brooklyn.