Junction Playground is named for the historic Junction Avenue trolley line that ran through the area.
In May 1894, the first ever Brooklyn City trolley car entered Queens County. At the end of the month, the Grand Street line was opened, running between the Maspeth Depot and Broadway. The line was soon extended to Junction Avenue and across to Bowery Bay. The opening of the line was a ceremonious event, and the first trolley car to travel the line carried a roster of distinguished passengers that included the president of the Brooklyn Heights Rail Road. When the car reached Jackson’s Mill during that opening run of the line in 1894, the passengers stopped to tour the old mill’s water wheel and grinding stones. The Junction Avenue line was operated as part of the Grand Street line until 1929, when it was established as its own route. The two lines operated separately until 1936, when Junction Avenue was again run as an extension of the Grand Street route.
The neighborhood of Jackson Heights, through which the line ran, has inadvertently preserved a rich history of the trolley lines. During the 1920s and 1930s, developers built up streets on both sides of Bowery Bay Road. Since the Brooklyn City Rail Road didn’t want to negotiate a new franchise, it kept the line as it was, and residents grew accustomed to trolley traffic in their backyards. In the 1930s, the other parcels of Old Bowery Bay Road were eliminated, so the trolley tracks were the only testament to old street configurations. A decade later, the City paved over much of the line, transforming the stretch into a commercial street. However, one can still find spots of exposed trolley tracks and original bricks where the pavement has worn away, thus affording a glimpse of 1890s Queens.
Jackson Heights is a northwestern Queens neighborhood which was originally desolate farmland, but became densely populated after the Queensboro Bridge opened in 1909. Jackson Heights was home to the nation’s first garden apartments and co-operative apartments, and both types of housing remain dominant in the area today. Jackson Heights was named for John C. Jackson (1809-1889), the former President of the Hunter’s Point, Newtown and Flushing Turnpike Company. In the early 1860s, the company built Jackson Avenue, which ran through the neighborhood. Part of Jackson Avenue was renamed Northern Boulevard on April 22, 1922 by local law.
This playground, bounded by Junction Boulevard, 34th Avenue, and 96th Street, was built on the site of former P.S. 115 in Queens. When the new P.S. 149 was opened in 1936, P.S. 115 was abandoned. While the title for the property was still vested to the New York City Board of Education, Parks was able to obtain jurisdiction through a five-year permit in August 1936, for use as a playground. In February 1947, jurisdiction was transferred to Parks.
The park has undergone two significant reconstruction projects in the past five years. In December 1996, a $20,300 contribution from Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani funded the renovation of the playground’s steel fences. Between April and June 2001, Council Member Helen M. Marshall contributed approximately $1.33 million for the reconstruction of the park’s play equipment and safety surfacing.
The playground has two large jungle gyms, one of which is shaped like a “Gold Spike Rail Road” engine. The other is a brightly painted red and white, with stencil cutouts of farm animals along the panels. There are two swing sets in the park, as well as several benches and water fountains for the convenience of both parents and children who visit the playground. There is a basketball court and an enclosed handball court, as well as a flagpole with a yardarm.
The park’s railroad theme keeps true to its name: it conjures memories of an old trolley junction point, and serves as a meeting junction for neighborhood residents who congregate at the park to enjoy the playground.