An honor for a revered Greenpoint activist
by Lisa A. Fraser
Apr 11, 2012 | 470 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Jane Bognacki (left) and Marie Sadowski's niece, Victoria Nikol hold up photos of Greenpoint's first female activist.
A much-loved Greenpoint activist finally received an honor on Monday, as Assemblyman Joe Lentol, along with Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey and community leaders, unveiled a plaque at McGolrick Park to commemorate Marie Sadowski's work in the neighborhood.

According to those who knew Sadowski and those familiar with her work, she was described as a tireless community activist for Greenpoint, a guiding light and an inspiration to many. She was invested in improving the Brooklyn neighborhood and McGolrick Park, back when it was still called Winthrop Park.

In 1929 she became a founding member of the Winthrop Civic Association, and for more than 50 years she invested her time and effort.

“She was wonderful,” said Edith Schkrutz, a Greenpoint resident of 62 years who knew Sadowski. “She was a lovely lady, very active. This is long overdue. She's the first lady of Greenpoint.”

Sadowski worked to improve McGolrick Park and worked personally with many public officials, including former mayor Fiorella LaGuardia. But she was not afraid to speak out against those same elected officials she worked hand-in-hand with.

In the 1930s, Sadowski led the battle to build Automotive High School and McCarren Park Pool.

And beyond the boundaries of Greenpoint, she was instrumental in obtaining legislation that helped prospective home buyers during the Great Depression purchase homes with minimal down payments and low interest rates.

According to those who knew her, she went all the way to the White House advocating for Greenpoint to presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

“She was one of the first women leaders that we had in Greenpoint,” said Lentol. “She always called it like she saw it. She was a great community organizer.”

Sadowski also helped lead the fight to save Greenpoint Hospital in the 1970s.

And Lentol also spoke of her work revolving around traffic control on McGuinness Boulevard.

“She was out there before it was fashionable to talk about the safety of McGuinness,” he said. “And it was really her true legacy to make sure that McGolrick Park was the outstanding community park that it is today.”

Throughout her life, Sadowski received a lot of recognition for her work.

But it wasn't until last year that a push was made to formally commemorate her legacy. And that push was made by Jane Bognacki, who urged Lentol to honor the activist.

“Her niece and I used to take care of her daughter and we found an archive of history in the house and it was just so amazing to see all of it,” Bognacki said. “Especially for a woman to start this in 1929 and keep such an awareness going over the years and not stopping. Someone like this really should be remembered.”

Sadowski's niece, Victoria Nikol, fondly recalled spending days in McGolrick Park with her and the rest of the family.

“We always came here,” she said. “I spent all my holidays here and she was always with us. This was our park. This really means a lot to me.”

Sadowski died in 1985 and was the mother of two daughters.

The commemorative plaque will be placed in a garden across from Sadowski's house at 121 Russell Street.

“After 40 years in public office, there are only a handful of people that truly stand out,” Lentol said. “Those are the people you remember even 25 years after they’re gone. Marie Sadowski was one of those people.”
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