This playground honors Dr. Edward Robinson Squibb (1819-1900), founder of Squibb Pharmaceuticals, later known as Bristol Meyers Squibb, Inc. Squibb was born in Delaware and made his life in Brooklyn, settling on Middagh Street in 1858. He built the first Squibb laboratories on a site behind the present playground; if you look closely you can still see the name Squibb written on the smokestacks.
Squibb was a naval surgeon in active service for ten years. After opening and establishing his first laboratory on Furman Street - a modest office marked with “Edward R. Squibb, M.D.” on the door - he became very influential in both the development of anesthetics and the passage of pure food and drug laws. Squibb discovered how to distill pure ether for safe use as an anaesthetic, and was renowned for his high standards and the quality of his products.
In 1944, the Board of Estimate authorized the acquisition of this property by condemnation as part of the construction of Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or BQE. The site was acquired in 1945, and title was vested to the City in 1946. With the construction of this playground, Robert Moses (1888-1981) was using both his powers as Parks Commissioner and Chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA).
Moses directed the construction of the BQE through the TBTA, and the expressway was built between 1946 and 1964 at a cost of $137 million dollars. Federal, state, and municipal funds were all necessary to complete the six-lane, 11.7 mile-long conduit with long elevated stretches. The BQE was intended not only to relieve congestion on local streets, but also to aid industry and business by shortening transportation time between the boroughs. After repeated rehabilitation attempts in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the BQE will receive a $240-million dollar comprehensive reconstruction from the New York State Department of Transportation, beginning in 2001 with scheduled completion 2004.
This park, located on Furman Street, Middagh Street, and Columbia Heights, was built in the late 1940s and named Edward Robinson Squibb Park by Local Law 30 in 1959. The park is tucked away below the street, next to the BQE. The playground is still equipped with the uniform apparatus which characterizes the era of its construction: swings, jungle gym, sand box, sprinklers, basketball court. Also present in the parkland is a comfort station, flagpole with yardarm, benches, a drinking fountain, pin oaks (Quercus palustris), London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), and a plaque commemorating Squibb and his contributions to science.