Public Employee Press
Bushwick park named for activist
A five-year family project to honor the legacy of a community activist triumphed recently when the Parks Dept. renovated and renamed a 3-acre playground the Barry "Sly" Morrow Field.
As Morrow's working-class Bushwick neighborhood succumbed to poverty and urban blight, his community involvement grew and in 1974 the Teamster unionist started a neighborhood football league to teach local children the fundamentals of sportsmanship and competitive sports.
"My uncle's purpose was to keep kids off the street and give them structure," said Blue Collar Council Rep Yolanda Johnson. "Before they could play, he made the boys show their report cards and clean up the park to feel pride in their community." In addition to his UPS day job, Marrow also drove a cab at night to provide uniforms, trophies and coats. By 1984 the Brooklyn Football League included teams from dozens of neighborhoods.
After Morrow died in 2006, the family and BFL gained support for renaming the playground from the community, politicians and the community board. City Council member Erik Dylan won $3 million for the renovation under Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
"Those boys became real men, thanks to the discipline, respect and pride they learned," said Johnson. "Every time we see young people using these fields, we think of our uncle and the contribution he made to changing lives in Bushwick."