Juniper Valley Park
This large park in the Middle Village neighborhood of Queens provides a wealth of leisure and recreational attractions to local residents. Before it became a park, “it was used variously as a farm, a cemetery, a source for peat moss, the property of a racketeer, and a garbage dump…In the early 1930s the City of New York acquired the bog to settle a $225,000 claim in back taxes against the estate of the infamous Arnold Rothstein (1882-1928), who had been accused of fixing the 1919 World Series” (nycgovparks). The WPA greatly transformed the park, first in 1936 and again in 1940-42.
In July 1936, the Department of Parks announced the opening of a new play area in the park containing “play equipment, basket and volley ball courts and benches under shade trees for those with small children.” In December of the same year, Parks announced another new section containing “parallel bars, horizontal ladders and bars, basketball, volleyball and horseshoe pitching courts.” The first announcement cited Dry Harbor Road between 62nd and 63rd Avenues as the location for this play area – that area is now residential housing, so either the street numbers in the release are wrong or this part of the park was later rebuilt. The press release further noted that “Over 100,000 cubic yards of valuable peat, which covered a major portion of the property, have already been salvaged from the site and used throughout the park system.”
On November 11, 1940, the Department of Parks announced the completion of much grander WPA projects in the park, as well as other projects still in progress including: “the completion of four baseball diamonds in 55 acre Juniper Valley Park… [a] 20′ wide bicycle track which has been built around the athletic field connects with the existing playground to the east… court games and play apparatus, comfort station and wading pool… 15 tennis, 10 paddle tennis, 5 badminton, 5 handball and 8 shuffleboard courts…” Still in the works were “an open play field with playgrounds at the northwest and southwest corners” and “paving the boundary streets and walks” around the park.
This extensive project brought lasting changes to the neighborhood. “News of the park, coupled with improvements of Works Progress Administration (WPA) efforts, ushered in a wave of housing growth in the vicinity that continued through the 1960s” (wikipedia).
Department of Parks, Press Release, July 8, 1936 Department of Parks, Press Release, December 11, 1936 Department of Parks, Press Release, November 11, 1940 NYC Parks - Juniper Valley Park Wikipedia - Juniper Valley Park
Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on March 9, 2014.
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