Palmetto Playground – a small park tucked beneath a highway on-ramp in Brooklyn, just blocks from the late Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch's childhood home – was renamed Adam Yauch Park on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of his passing on May 4th. Family, friends and fans gathered for a ceremony that celebrated Yauch's life, accomplishments and Brooklyn roots, and speakers included Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, fellow Beastie Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Yauch's mother, Frances. They and many more recalled the passion, compassion, dedication and humor Yauch brought to everything he did, whether it was music, filmmaking or activism, including founding the Milarepa Fund and organizing the Tibetan Freedom Concert.
"It's fitting that we're here today to dedicate a playground to Adam Yauch, because like the Wu-Tang Clan, Beastie Boys is for the children," Horovitz said to laughs and cheers at the top of his speech. Speaking of Yauch's mother and father, Frances and Noel, Horovitz continued: "They taught Adam to be curious, thoughtful, kind and just enough crazy – that craziness that is New York. That New York frenetic energy. It's musical, artful and always moving forward – and that's not only Brooklyn, that's Adam Yauch."
He went on to thank the New York Parks Department and the people of Brooklyn "for honoring my friend and brother, and recognizing how cool it is to have an Adam Yauch Park for other crazy New York kids."
Brooklyn was on everyone's lips throughout the event, particularly those of the borough president, who proudly proclaimed that the Bronx may have invented hip-hop but "it took Brooklyn to refine it and bring it to the world." To show he wasn't kidding, and to pay tribute to Yauch in his own special way, Markowitz proceeded to kick some rhymes, injecting his own Brooklyn-centric lyrics into to the Beasties' "An Open Letter to NYC" from their 2004 LP, To the 5 Boroughs: "We're doing fine on the 4 and 5 line, on the L we're doing swell, on the G it's where to be/Named by GQ coolest city on the planet, home of the Nets who slam it/Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin, black and white – Brooklyn. You do it just right."
Before the unveiling of the new Adam Yauch Park plaque, Frances Yauch spoke of the music she and Noel would play for their young son, including Mozart and Elizabethan lute music. "The whole idea was we were going to introduce him to music and make him love it all his life," she said. "Well, we succeeded. He loved music all his life, but he did it on his own terms."
Recalling window-rattling Beastie Boys rehearsals on the top floor of their Brooklyn Heights home ("God bless our neighbors, who never complained," she said), the band's early punk days and their ultimate success, Yauch remembered how her son used his celebrity to fight for the Tibetan people and against injustice, speaking out for peace and non-violence.
"Adam made us so proud of him – proud of his achievements, proud of our beautiful daughter-in-law and our beautiful grandchild," she said in closing. "And now proud to have this park in his name."
Below is the full text of Adam Horovitz's remarks:
"Seeing Marty Markowitz rap – it was great, but not as great as Adam's parents rapping at Adam and Dechen's wedding. If you were at the wedding, you know that was pretty great.
"I want to thank first the fine people for everything today, everybody from the Parks Department, Adrian Benepe, John Silva, Frances Yauch, Steve Martin; but most of all I want to thank my sister Rachel. She really made this happen, and now she's gonna make me cry.
"It's fitting that we're here today to dedicate a playground to Adam Yauch because like the Wu-Tang Clan, Beastie Boys is for the children. I was trying to think of what to say today, and I was thinking what it means to be a New York kid: People come to New York to be themselves, to express themselves and to be who they want to be. And although Adam's mom Frances is a New York kid herself, his father Noel came to New York to be himself. And together they raised a New York kid, Adam Yauch, and Noel and Frances raised him right. They taught Adam to be curious, thoughtful, kind and just enough crazy – that craziness that is New York. That New York frenetic energy: It's musical, artful and always moving forward. And that's not only Brooklyn, that's Adam Yauch. And Adam and his wife Dechen raised a daughter Losel, a New York kid that's equally talented, curious and utterly awesome.
"In life you don't really get to chose your family, your siblings – you get what you're given. I got lucky cause I got two great sisters and two great brothers, but I got extra lucky because around 1982, I got the chance to choose two other brothers: Mike Diamond and Adam Yauch. And together our families have grown. I'd like to thank the New York Parks Department and the people of Brooklyn for honoring my friend and brother, and recognizing how cool it is to have an Adam Yauch park for other crazy New York kids."