Palmetto Playground, located where Atlantic Avenue feeds onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, was renamed last week in honor of Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch.
Yauch died last year at the age of 47 after a three-year battle with throat cancer. He is survived by his wife, Dechen, and young daughter, Losel.
Yauch will best be remembered as a founding member of the Beastie Boys. He formed the group at the age of 16 with Adam Horovitz and Mike Diamond as a punk band that played local clubs. But as rap music began to grow in popularity across New York City, the trio shifted its focus.
They adopted the nicknames MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D and became an unlikely rap group, breaking musical barriers and achieving critical and worldwide recognition.
At a renaming ceremony last Friday, Yauch's mother said they were overwhelmed by the reaction to news of their son's death last year.
“Our friends said, 'we had no idea your son was so famous,'” said Frances Yauch, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Noel.
Yauch grew up near the playground that now bears his name, and even learned to ride a bike there. Mrs. Yauch said that when her son was young, they used to play classical music to instill a love of music in him.
“He loved music all his life, but he did it on his own terms,” she said.
An early incarnation of the Beastie Boys used to practice on the top floor of the Yauchs' Brooklyn Heights home near the park.
“Me and Adam were hanging out in high school late one night, and we ended up in this park and he told me about how he used to play here as a kid,” said fellow Beastie Boy Horovitz last week. “Adam was a New York kid that was talented, curious, and utterly awesome.”
Yauch's music career will always be the most dominant item in his biography, but he was also a talented filmmaker, shooting several of the Beastie Boys' highly regarded music videos and directing a documentary about basketball culture in New York's playgrounds.
He was also a passionate human rights advocate and a dedicated Buddhist. Yauch founded the Milarepa Fund and organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. And in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Yauch co-organized numerous concerts to raise funds for families of the victims.
“We were so proud of the way Adam used his celebrity,” said his mother.
John Silva, who managed the Beastie Boys for over 20 years, said Yauch had a way of inspiring everyone around him to be their own individual.
“Adam had the the ability to make everyone believe they could do things in a way that was fulfilling and fun and at the same time test the limits of what was possible,” he said.
Following the ceremony, a man known for his clever and witty wordplay, was at a bit of a loss.
“Adam was a brother, one of my best friends for 30 years. Imagine if your best friend had a park named after him,” said Horovitz. “It's pretty [expletive] cool.”