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Behagen Playground

Basil Behagen Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Throughout his lifetime, Basil Behagen (1927-1993) demonstrated his commitment to youth and to his community. Born in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Behagen moved to the Bronx in 1946. Behagen worked as a Substance Abuse Prevention Intervention Specialist for the Board of Education for many years and was a member of the Advisory Board of Lincoln Hospital. As a member of Bronx Community Board 3, Behagen served on the Youth Committee and as Chair of the Cultural Committee for three years. As Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee for six years, Behagen worked to upgrade open spaces in the district and, specifically, to improve Forest Playground, located on East 166th Street between Union Avenue and Tinton Avenue.

Behagen sought to fortify local ties with the Forest Houses public housing project by organizing an annual neighborhood reunion of present and former residents, his family included, at the Forest Playground. He also ran annual basketball and baseball tournaments at this site. In addition, athletic talent was fostered in one of Behagen’s ten children, Ron Behagen, who played professional basketball in the 1970s.

This site which opened on December 24, 1956, was first developed by the New York City Housing Authority in 1951 as part of the Forest Houses at which time it was ceded to Parks. Ballfields were built in an adjacent lot in 1993, doubling the playground’s size. Forest Playground was rededicated in honor of Basil Behagen by Local Law 14, which was sponsored by Council Members Wendell Foster and David Rosado and signed into law by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on February 20, 1996. .

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