South Rochdale Playground
The cooperative housing community of Rochdale Village is bounded by Baisley Boulevard, Bedell Street, 137th Avenue, and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. Located in the South Jamaica community, Rochdale Village occupies the former site of the Jamaica Racetrack. The Metropolitan Jockey Club opened the track on April 27, 1903 with fifteen thousand persons in attendance. The one-mile, oval track housed thoroughbred horse racing and was reputed to be extremely fast due to a superior drainage system. The complex featured 9,000 grandstand seats and an open field intended for additional seating. The facility set its maximum attendance record on Memorial Day 1945, housing 64,679 spectators. Unfortunately, Jamaica Racetrack deteriorated over time; it closed on August 1, 1959.
In 1963, architect Herman Jessor’s Rochdale Village was completed on the former site of the Jamaica Racetrack. Developer Abraham Kazan of the, United Housing Foundation, provided $86 million in financial support for the massive endeavor. The first step involved the total demolition of the dilapidated track. Then, Kazan’s construction crews built 20 fourteen-story apartment buildings on the 170-acre site. When completed, Rochdale Village housed 5,860 families in middle-income cooperatives. The United Housing Foundation set aside 10 acres for a shopping center and provided space for 3 public schools that were later built. For a time, Rochdale Village held the record as the largest private housing complex worldwide; it is surpassed only by Herman Jessor’s later project, Co-op City (1970), which is located in the Bronx.
South Rochdale Playground is located near the corner of 173rd Street and 137th Avenue. The facility serves the local South Jamaica and Rochdale community as well as the adjacent P.S. 80 (Thurgood Marshall Magnet School). In December 1960, Parks and the Board of Education reached an agreement providing for the joint operation of the playground. Parks is responsible for maintaining the playground’s facilities. Approximately three years after the completion of Rochdale Village, the playground opened on January 26, 1966. During November 1995, the playground received a $656,000 renovation sponsored by Council Member Thomas White, Jr. The Park now features 1 full basketball court, handball courts, and swings.