This park is named to honor Jerry Tenney (1928-1977), a dedicated community leader who played a major role in the development of the surrounding Glen Oaks Village apartment complex. Born in the Bronx on March 28, 1928, Tenney attended DeWitt Clinton High School, New York University, and Long Island University, where he earned a Masters Degree. Tenney was a real estate financier and investor by vocation, but spent the bulk of his later life helping improve the garden apartment community of Glen Oaks Village in Queens.
When Tenney and his wife Shirley bought Glen Oaks in 1958, 3,000 families—a total of 12,000 people—inhabited the 125-acre area. With the goal of making the community a prototype for good housing, Tenney spent seven days a week at Glen Oaks personally supervising its development with the help of a managing team. He also coached five Bronx basketball teams to championships in tournaments sponsored by the Daily Mirror and Parks, and planned many other community activities. He wore the emblem of an apple on his lapel to represent his loyalty to New York City, and a year before his death, Tenney was described by a local newspaper as having “done the most to spiritually make the Village a good place to live.”
The two-story buildings that surround Tenney Park on all sides comprise the Glen Oaks Village cooperative residential community, which took its name from the surrounding neighborhood of Glen Oaks, an area that was originally part of Flushing, Queens. It was also home to the estate of famous industrialist and railroad developer William K. Vanderbilt, which was bought in 1923 by the Glen Oaks golf club. In 1944, Gross-Morton Company, having bought 175 acres of land along Union Turnpike, decided to build a colonial-style apartment complex in Glen Oaks with the help of a $24 million loan from the Federal Housing Authority. They named it Glen Oaks Village. Many of the 2,864 units were rented by returning veterans of World War II.
The land for Tenney Park was conveyed to the City in two parcels. The first parcel, consisting of a small portion of the 74th Avenue route of Long Island Motor Highway, was conveyed to the City by the Lakeville Holding & Development Co. on June 24, 1938. The second was acquired from Union Land Co. on June 17, 1948. Both parcels were immediately given to Parks to develop as public parkland. The park was known as Glen Oaks Park until a local law passed by the City Council designated it Jerry M. Tenney Park in 1977, and 10 years later Parks shortened it to its current form, Tenney Park.
In 1988, portions of the park were renovated to improve entry gate access and to reconstruct the basketball court and two baseball fields, with new players’ benches and protective fencing. In 1996, Parks allocated funds to construct a $400,000 playground area in the western portion of Tenney Park. Tenney himself, a basketball coach for Bronx youths, is remembered for his dedication not only to New York City and to Glen Oaks Village, but to children especially. Opposite the intersection of 74th Avenue South and 260th Street South, a stone inscribed “Jerry M. Tenney Park, 1978” commemorates the work of this community leader.