Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Retain Name For Park

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Retain Name For Park

For over 20 years, Pat Troy, and countless other Alexandria citizens, city councilmen, and mayors supported recognizing city founding father Colonel John Fitzgerald. Since 2012, Fitzgerald Square Park was the approved name for the park located at the foot of King Street, and it should be retained. No citizens petitioned for a name change.

Why recognize Colonel Fitzgerald and others who contributed to the history of the waterfront? Review the City’s own extensive report, dated 2012, https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/planning/info/Waterfront/A6_History%20Appendix(1).pdf. A public survey and a public hearing were held on Fitzgerald Square Park in 2016. What is the reason behind the arbitrary name change? ​

American Revolutionary War Veteran Col. John Fitzgerald saved Alexandria from being burned down by the British, was a mayor of Alexandria, started the City Council, founded the Alexandria bank and library, and filled in land to establish current Alexandria waterfront. Col. Fitzgerald is also a founding father of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church in Virginia, now the Basilica of St. Mary, as designated by the Vatican, with over 7,000 parishioners. St. Mary’s was built with the assistance of Fitzgerald’s friend George Washington and protestant Col. Robert Hooe, Alexandria's first mayor. Col. Fitzgerald was George Washington’s Aide-de-Camp and served with Col. Hooe. Fitzgerald was at George Washington’s side when Washington took over troops at Boston in 1775. Col. Fitzgerald was a war hero at the Battles of Trenton and Monmouth, where he was wounded.​

After petitions and reports by the city’s Historical and Waterfront Commissions and much public input, the city approved the “Interim Fitzgerald Square Park’ as part of the Alexandria Waterfront Plan, dated 2012. There was no indication in the waterfront plan indicating “Interim” applied to the actual name “Fitzgerald Square.” What we did find is that the city and other groups repeatedly referred to Fitzgerald Square as the park name and that the term “interim” was used because the funding for a permanent park was a long way off. ​

In addition, the city conducted a public survey on the Fitzgerald Square Park in March 2016, indicating that the city was using Fitzgerald Square as an official name. The city stated in its 2016 announcement: “The Waterfront Small Area Plan, approved in June 2014, envisions a new public plaza at the foot of King Street called Fitzgerald Square."​

Only after the name was stripped this past March, did City Spokesman Fifer, Councilwoman Pepper, Councilman Wilson and City Manager Jinks claim that the term “Interim” applied to the name of the park.​

Mayor Silberberg was advised by the city spokesman only a few days prior to the announcement of the Fitzgerald name change to King Street Park, recalling our colonial subjugation to British tyranny. Mayor Silberberg was shocked by the name change and does support Fitzgerald Square. It was also a shock to the mortally ill Pat Troy and thousands of other Fitzgerald Square supporters who felt Alexandria City let them down. This did not stop Del Pepper and other politicians from riding the St. Patrick’s Day parade hoping to garnish votes in the next election.​

Over 1,500 signatures have been collected in support of Fitzgerald Square in addition to the support of the Basilica of St. Mary and its 7,000-plus parishioners.​

​Please vote in City Park Naming Survey found at https://www.alexandriava.gov/news_display.aspx?id=106160 through Nov. 16. You do not have to be a city resident to take the survey.​

Bernadette Troy

Kathleen Troy Molloy