Bayside Playground, originally named J.H.S. 180 Playground after the adjoining school, is located in Rockaway, Queens. The name Rockaway was probably derived from the Delaware or Chippewa Native American words for “sandy place,” which was interpreted as “Rockaway’” by the European colonizers of the 17th century.
The land constituting Rockaway was owned by a number of prominent families during the Colonial era, most notably the Cornell family. After a partition suit divided the plot in 1808, the parcels were sold to outsiders including the Rockaway Association, which began to build exclusive resorts in 1833. During the 1890s, a variety of amusement parks were built. In 1898, the Village of Rockaway Park was incorporated into New York City.
Improvements in transportation, under the direction of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) in the 1930s, led to the growth of Rockaway. The completion of two bridges, the Marine Parkway Bridge in 1937 and the Cross Bay Bridge in 1939, connected Rockaway to mainland Queens and Brooklyn. Innovations in railroad service and the development of the elevated subway allowed popular access to the peninsula. Subway access stimulated Rockaway’s transition from a vacation area to a neighborhood with permanent residents.
During the Depression, federal aid through Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (1882-1945) Works Progress Administration enabled the city to expand and improve its play spaces. Under the stewardship of Commissioner Moses, new playgrounds were constructed at an astonishing rate throughout the 1930s. When Moses became commissioner in 1934, there were only 119 playgrounds in New York City. By 1960, the end of the Moses reign at Parks, there were 777.
Bayside playground, located on Beach Channel Drive and Seaside Avenue, was formally opened on September 23, 1959, becoming the 771st playground in the Parks system. Jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education, the site was renamed Bayside Playground in 1997, following the renaming of J.H.S. 180 to Bayside School. The playground contains three basketball half-courts, one full basketball court, play equipment with safety surfacing, benches, a comfort station, a flagpole with a yardarm and a spray shower. Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) are located within the park and around its perimeter. Bayside Playground offers a welcome recreational area to schoolchildren and residents alike in this suburban Rockaway neighborhood.