Hammels is an area of Rockaway Beach in Queens, named for local landowner Louis Hammel (1836-1904). Originally from Germany, he emigrated to the United States and lived in Elm Park on Staten Island before moving to Brooklyn. During the summers he ran the Eldert House hotel here in the Rockaways. In 1878, he gave land to the New York, Woodhaven & Rockaway Railroad for construction of a station, which was named “Hammels.” The name “Hammels” came to designate the entire community. In 1897 Hammels merged with Hollands and was incorporated as the Village of Rockaway Beach. The following year Rockaway Beach became part of Greater New York when the five boroughs consolidated into a single city.
The arrival of the railroad spurred further development in the area, and in the early 1900s, Hammels, like the rest of the Rockaways, was a popular summer vacation destination. Its population was small during the winter, but would swell in summer months as people from Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn made day trips and vacation visits. The railroad station and train were often overcrowded on hot days as people flocked to the beaches and returned home at the end of the day.
Hammels and all of Far Rockaway began to decline as the popularity of the automobile increased. Less crowded beaches became accessible, and eventually new parks, such as Jones Beach State Park, were designed to accommodate cars. By the 1930s many beach goers went elsewhere. As those with enough money to afford a car drove further out, Hammels became the beach for those who depended on public transit.
In an attempt to address the physical deterioration in Far Rockaway, the City began to demolish selected buildings and replace them with planned housing. The New York City Housing Authority purchased the land for the Hammel Houses on July 16, 1952. It was one of the early projects. In 1964, the Housing Authority decided to rebuild the entire area.
This playground, adjacent to the Hammel Houses, came under the jurisdiction of Parks in June 1955. Originally known as Hammel Houses Playground, Parks shortened the name to Hammel Playground in 1987. In 1998, Mayor Giuliani provided $73,050 in requirements contracts funds to purchase new play equipment and renovate the park.
Hammel Playground, located at Beach 83rd Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, features handball courts and three full basketball courts, a comfort station, benches and picnic tables. There is play equipment with safety surfacing and two sets of swings, for different age groups, as well as a London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia) that stands on the perimeter of the park.