Frank W. Plaut (1884-1949), a native of Flushing, Queens, was active in the civic affairs of his neighborhood and also donated the land for this park. Plaut grew up in a house near the present location of St. Mary’s Cemetery. After his marriage to Katherine Siebert in 1917 and the later birth of their daughter Dorothea, Plaut and his family moved to Long Island City. In 1926, the family relocated to a new home in Auburndale, but finally settled just a few blocks away at 43-12 170th Street. Plaut is remembered as an outgoing and spirited citizen who was an active member of the Flushing Democratic Club.
Flushing was established in the late 1600s when English settlers began to buy land from Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant (1610-1672.) Quaker communities with a pioneering policy of tolerance towards all religious and ethnic groups, first arose in Flushing, drawing diverse settlement to the area. After the Civil War, wealthy New Yorkers took advantage of the extended trolley lines to Flushing and built austere and elegant houses. Commuter interest in the town grew from this time until World War I, and it was during this period that the area surrounding Plaut Triangle came into being. Known as Murray Hill, this extension of Flushing formerly housed King and Murray’s Nursery before transforming, much like its neighbors, into a commuter suburb.
Growth in the neighborhood continued throughout the 20th century, fueled by improving public transportation as well as by two World’s Fairs held in Flushing (1939-40 and 1964-65). The last Fair brought enormous interest to the area, but it also spelled the death of Flushing’s “suburban” appeal, as the town began to transform into a veritable urban center. An influx of immigrants in the 1980s, from Asians to Latin Americans, brought new languages and culture to the historically diverse environment in Flushing. Today, the area is home to one of the largest concentrated Asian-American populations in the United States.
Plaut arranged for the construction of this park when he donated the land bounded by Northern Boulevard, 43rd Avenue, 169th and 170th Streets to the City of New York in 1923. By 1935, Parks had landscaped the site, rendering it a passive sitting area comprised of ten park benches, a drinking fountain, walks, grass plots, trees, and shrubbery.
In 1935, the City passed a resolution to name the park after Captain Richard McHale, a Flushing police officer who had been shot and killed in the line of duty. For private reasons, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947) vetoed the measure, and the park remained unnamed until 1980, when Parks named it in honor of Plaut. Today, Plaut Triangle consists of a small patch of greenery surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and it serves as a greenspace in the midst of several major thoroughfares.