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Black Rock Playground

Blackrock Playground

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

Blackrock Playground is located west of P.S. 119 on a block bounded by Blackrock, Virginia, Watson, and Pugsley Avenues. The name Blackrock provides a glimpse into the history and geology of the east Bronx. In 1643, Thomas Cornell settled on what became known as Clason Point. Although Native Americans drove Cornell away, his grandson William Willett was granted property here in 1667. The patent conferred by Governor Nicolls described “a certain Parcell of land, contained within a neck commonly called and knowne by ye name of Cornell’s Neck, lying and being upon the Maine, toward the Sound of East River; being bounded to the West by a certain Rivolett which runs to the Black Rock and so into Bronckse Creeke or Kill.” In the 1850s a portion of the former Willett property was held by the Ludlow family, whose Black Rock Farm was named for a large boulder found in a salt marsh near the junction of Ludlow’s Creek and the Bronx River.

The black rock outcroppings in the area are formed of gneiss--a coarse-grained, imperfectly layered metamorphic rock, characterized by alternating dark and light bands. It is from the Hartland formation and dates back hundreds of millions of years, when an unknown land mass collided with North America and buried sedimentary rocks and volcanics on the edge of the continent. Several miles below the earth’s surface, at temperatures over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, the sedimentary rock and volcanics were forged into gneiss. The specific black rock boulder mentioned in the 1667 patent may have been a glacial erratic transported to the site by a glacier about 10,000 years ago. Mistaken for a meteorite by early settlers, the boulder was moved to Soundview Park, where it can be seen today.

P.S. 119 opened its new building on Pugsley Avenue in 1939. The Board of Education enlarged the adjacent schoolyard between 1939 and 1959, the year in which Parks and the school arranged for joint operation of an improved playground. The new facility opened in 1963. There were basketball, volleyball, and shuffleboard courts and a roller skating area as well as a separate zone with benches, shower spray, swings, slides, sandpit, and other play equipment. In 1991 the school opened a new wing, which consumed some of the playground area.

In 1997 Council Member Lucy Cruz funded a $216,650 contract to reconstruct the southwest portion of Blackrock Playground. Improvements made in 1997-98 included the installation of new play equipment, asphalt paving, safety surfacing, a steel gate, and benches, as well as a yardarm for the flagpole.

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