This playground honors Egbert Benson (1746-1833), an attorney and statesman who contributed his name to the neighborhood of Bensonhurst.
After graduating from King’s College (the original name of Columbia University) in 1765, Benson began his political career as an outspoken Revolutionary War patriot who went on to become New York State’s first post-independence Attorney General in 1777. As a delegate to the First Continental Congress and the New York Constitutional Convention, Benson played a role in organizing the new Federalist government. Later, he served in the New York State Assembly, the United States Congress, and was appointed Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court in 1794. Benson maintained a continuous presence in City affairs, serving as a trustee of Columbia College, and as a founding member and first president of the New York Historical Society (1804).
Benson’s heirs gained title to more than 200 acres of farmland in southwestern Brooklyn’s seaside areas, then known as New Utrecht. The family leased most of the land to local tenant farmers. The Benson family’s local influence persisted, however, as a grandson, also named Egbert, served as a commissioner of the Bath and Coney Island Turnpike Road Company, formed in 1835 with the goal of improving transportation from the city to outlying areas, thus paving the way for suburbanization.
Robert Benson, another family member, was appointed director of the Brooklyn, Bath, and Coney Island Railroads in the 1880s. In 1887, the family sold their holdings to the developer James Lynch, who transformed the farmland into the commuter colony of Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea, named after the Benson estate farmhouse. At the time, periodicals called Bensonhurst, “the most perfectly developed suburb ever laid out around New York,” and “a model for future creators of suburban settlements.”
This site adjoins the Benson Elementary School (P.S. 200) on Benson Avenue. The City acquired this parcel, located on Bath Avenue between Bay 22nd and Bay 23rd Streets, in 1955. The playground opened the following year as P.S. 200 Playground and is jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education. Commissioner Stern changed the playground’s name on June 18th, 1987 to Benson Playground.
A $200,000 renovation of the site, funded by Mayor Giulani, was completed in 2001. Improvements included new benches, modular play equipment with safety surfacing, swings and an automatic spray shower.