This playground and the adjacent housing development were built at the same time and are named for one of New York’s oldest families, the Brevoorts. Today, the Brevoort real estate firm still maintains some of the family’s holdings, including a Manhattan residential building called the Brevoort at 11 Fifth Avenue. The Brevoort name, like the name Stuyvesant, is synonymous with the story of Old New York.
In 1660, Hendrick Janszen (ca. 1630-?) left his home village, Bredevoort (meaning “broad ford”’), in the region of Guelderland, the Netherlands, with his wife and children, and sailed for New Netherland. In keeping with the custom of being identified by one’s town of origin, he acquired the surname van Brevoort, or Brevoort. Nearly every Brevoort living in the United States is descended from him.
Hendrick’s son Jan Hendrick Brevoort (1644-1714) bought property in Harlem, where he served as overseer of the town in 1678 and 1679. At the beginning of the 18th century, Jan Hendrick left Harlem for lower Manhattan. Upon his death, he bequeathed equal shares of his farm in the Bowery to his children. His son Hendrick (1670-1718) came to own most of the property, which in turn went to his son, also named Hendrick (1711-1771), who expanded the family holdings to nearly 80 acres. The property stretched from the Bowery to Sixth Avenue and from what is now Ninth Street to Eighteenth Street. When the Brevoort lands were broken up and sold, they yielded a fortune to the family, which was by then an established social force, headed by Henry Brevoort (1747-1841).
Henry Brevoort, Jr. (1791-1874) and his wife, Laura (Carson) Brevoort, built a mansion on the remainder of the family property at Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street, just when the fashionable world was beginning to train their sights above Bleecker Street. The Brevoorts presided there with great splendor. Their fancy dress ball in 1840 set the standard for lavish entertainment. Henry, Jr., had a reputation as something of a literary wit, and was a friend and correspondent of the writer Washington Irving (1783-1859).
Other famous Brevoorts include James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918), an architect who, with his cousin James Renwick (1818-1895), designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral. James Renwick was also the architect of Grace Church, in lower Manhattan, the Booth Theater, in midtown; the Smithsonian Institution and the Corcoran Art Gallery, in Washington, D.C.; and Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The City acquired this parkland along with the site for the housing development, in February of 1951. The New York City Housing Authority, which assumed control of the project, leased the playground site to Parks in 1957. The playground will remain under Parks jurisdiction until the property ceases to be used for public housing.
In 1995, Mayor Giuliani funded an $11,964 renovation of the playground, including the installation of safety surfacing. In 2000 and 2001, Mayor Giuliani and Council Member Tracy L. Boyland provided $372,327 for extensive work on the play equipment, pavements, lawns, and fences. The freshly restored Brevoort Playground features handball courts, basketball courts, a flagpole with a yardarm, a comfort station, slides, play equipment with safety surfacing, and benches in the shade of London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia).
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