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New York City has more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities. Unfortunately, few New Yorkers know whom they are named after or why. To help teach New Yorkers about their local parks and playgrounds and provide a sense of community, we created the Historical Signs Program. A historical sign is a 24" x 36" wooden sign, installed in a prominent location in a park or playground, that explains whom the park is named after and why, as well as the history of the site. In 1999, Parks partnered with college students across the city to research and write more than 500 signs, and by the end of 2001, had written and produced signs for every named park across the five boroughs.
The names of many of our City’s parks and playgrounds honor worthy people from our past-- from towering political figures to slain police officers to local civic leaders. All parks have signs marking their name, but now more and more parks also have historical signs. The purpose of the historical signs program is to place historical identification markers which describe the history of the site, park improvements, and the biography of the person for whom the park is named. Significant features such as monuments, design elements, and plantings are described, as well as neighborhood characteristics.
The idea for historical signs originated with Commissioner Henry J. Stern, and the program is administered by the Commissioner’s Staff and the Art & Antiquities division. In March of 1996, Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn became the first location to receive a historical sign, followed by an initial group of 50 sites. As the program expands, it continues to educate the public about local history and fosters respect for our parks and surrounding communities. Thanks to historical signs, no one will have to wonder who the "Amiable Child" was, what Alice Austen did, or how Van Cortlandt Park got its name.
As new historical signs are unveiled in the city’s parks, we’ll be adding them to this page, so be sure to check back for updated listings.