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East Flatbush Children's Park

East Flatbush Children’s Playground

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

This playground is named for the East Flatbush community, and for the old Dutch town of Flatbush, settled in 1652 as one of the six original towns of Brooklyn. The name comes from the Dutch word vlackebos, meaning “wooded plain.” Farmland dominated the area until the 1920s, when the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) lines created a crucial link between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Present day East Flatbush consists of several smaller neighborhoods such as Remsen Village, Rugby, Wingate, Farragut, and Erasmus.

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1980s, the population of East Flatbush shifted from Jewish and Italian-American to Caribbean-American. Caribbean culture is well represented by the many local bakeries and restaurants specializing in jerk, roti, and Caribbean baked goods as well as by street vendors selling fresh cut sugar cane, coconuts, mangoes, ginger beer, and sorrel. The music of local Caribbean bands can be heard in the streets.

This is one of nearly one thousand playgrounds in New York City. Playgrounds gained prominence as a public facility during the first half of the 20th century. From 1865 to 1895, the City's population more than doubled. As thousands of new immigrants moved into already overcrowded tenement districts, the streets teemed with children, many of whom worked long hours in factories. With the enactment of the first child labor laws at the turn of the century, leading reformers in New York City lobbied for the creation of a new kind of small park for children -- the playground.

The earliest playgrounds, called "sand gardens," appeared in the 1880s on the grounds of settlement houses. Furnished with innovative play equipment like see-saws, and staffed by trained recreation specialists, the playground was designed to be a "healthful influence upon morals and conduct."

Groups such as the New York Society for Parks and Playgrounds formed to raise awareness of the importance of play for children's health. The Society organized parades of mothers and babies, planned public meetings to demonstrate the use of the see-saw, and opened its own playground on Second Avenue and 91st Street. In 1903, the first municipally-run playground in the United States, Seward Park, opened on the Lower East Side. By 1960, the City had built 777 playgrounds.

Parks acquired this property from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 1997. East Flatbush Children’s Playground, located on East 94th Street between Rutland Road and East New York Avenue, is a small play area with grass borders and a path leading to blue, green and red play equipment with safety surfacing. The play area, surrounded by wrought iron and chain-link fence, also holds four evergreen trees.

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