Today’s NYC Parks website explains that the “history of the playground begins in 1935, when the Board of Transportation permitted the Department of Parks to use two parcels on the east and west sides of 78th Street for recreational purposes. The property was developed by the Works Progress Administration in 1937 as a neighborhood playground and sitting park.”
In fact, work on the park started a bit earlier than that. A Department of Parks press release from December 30, 1936 announced the opening in this park of a “new playground [that] is equipped with swings, jungle gyms, sand tables, play houses and a shower basin for small children, and basket ball, hand ball and horseshoe pitching courts, roller hockey field and a soft ball diamond for older children. The area is designed so that it can be flooded and used for ice-skating in winter.” Although the release does not mention the WPA or other New Deal agencies, researcher Frank da Cruz explains here that almost all New York City Parks Department projects between 1934 and 1943 were carried out with New Deal funds and/or labor, and that after April 1935, the WPA quickly became the main source of this support.
At the end of the WPA’s work, the “larger parcel featured a variety of athletic facilities for handball, basketball, volleyball, horseshoe pitching, and rollerskating, as well as a softball field that was flooded for use as an ice skating rink during the winter. The play equipment included a shower basin, play houses, sand tables, slides, swings, and a jungle gym” (NYC Parks).
The park was renovated in the 1950s and again in the 1990s.
Department of Parks, Press Release, December 30, 1936 NYC Parks - Frank D. O’Connor Playground New York City Parks Department New Deal Projects 1934-43
Project originally submitted by Frank da Cruz on October 16, 2016.
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