Coffey Park sits snug in the middle of Red Hook. Before it was Coffey Park, it was Red Hook Park. Before that it was a patch of land in a developing neighborhood of Brooklyn. Due to the rise of the waterfront industry and population growth of the mid to late 1800s, Red Hook grew in size. People arrived, houses were built, and a park was declared. It was named after Michael Coffey, a well-known representative of the district and long-time resident of Red Hook.
The mid-1800s saw a rise in population for the small Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook as a result of construction of the Atlantic Basin in 1839 and the opening of the Erie Basin in the late 1860s. Shipyards, docks, and piers were built along the waterfront and Red Hook became a bustling little neighborhood of longshore and dock workers.
In 1867 the City Board of Alderman elected Michael J. Coffey to represent Brooklyn’s 12th Ward. Born in County Cork, Ireland, Coffey and his family came to the United States in 1844. They lived in Chicago for five years before moving east to New York and settling in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. Expressing interest in local politics, Coffey got involved with the Democratic Party and served as Alderman of Brooklyn’s 12th Ward from 1867 through 1874. After serving as a New York State Assemblyman from 1874 to 1892, Coffey was once again elected as Alderman of the 12th Ward, this time as Alderman President.
Previously known as Red Hook Park, the land was purchased by the Brooklyn Parks Department in 1892. The new park, renamed Coffey Park, opened in 1901 and soon after in 1907, more acres of land were purchased to expand the grounds. Many years later in 1943, a third tract of land on Pioneer Street was bought and the full expanse of Coffey Park was complete.
Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections; visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org.