Emerald Playground’s name was inspired by its location on Jewel Avenue. The roadway was given its name because streets north of what is now Queens Boulevard were at one time given names in alphabetical order. Jewel Avenue, formerly known as Jewel Street, ran next to Kelvin Road, now 69th Road, which ran through a swamp in Flushing, over a stone bridge, and into Kew Gardens Hills.
Originally, each Queens community chose their street names and there was no borough-wide, organized street classification system. In 1911, it was decided that the roadways would be numbered with avenues, roads, and drives running from east to west and streets, lanes, and places running from north to south. However, when Queens adopted the plan, the name Jewel Avenue remained unchanged for reasons that remain unclear. Jewel Avenue originally ended at 112th Street. In the 1920s, the roadway was further developed, extending eastward to the Pomonok Country Club, now the Electchester Homes. In preparation for the 1964 World’s Fair, Jewel Avenue was extended to its present terminus west of the Grand Central Parkway.
In 1988, the Avenue’s name was hyphenated to honor the memory of labor leader Harry Van Arsdale (1903-1986). Van Arsdale joined Local 3 of the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1925, a union in which his father was also a member. In 1933, Van Arsdale became the union’s business manager and eventually became president. In his more than 50 years of service, Van Arsdale negotiated the union’s first paid holiday and later instituted social security and affirmative action programs before they were prominent on a national scale. The labor leader was also active in the taxi drivers’ and teachers’ unions and was instrumental in the founding of the City’s Central Labor Council, a group for which he would eventually serve as president.
Emeralds are a form of the mineral beryl, which consists of the chemical aluminum beryllium silicate, of the chemical formula Be3Al2(SiO3)6. On its own, beryl is colorless, but emeralds obtain their green color from a small amount of chromium. Emeralds can contain a material known as silk on their surfaces, giving some of the stones a mossy appearance. The gems are so valuable that sizeable specimens, without any imperfections, sell for a higher price than diamonds.
In ancient times, most emeralds were mined in Egypt, where they were thought to posses healing powers for eye diseases. Emeralds are also found in Native American jewelry, especially among the Aztecs. Today, most emeralds are mined in Columbia, with some coming from Siberia, Zambia, and Alexander and Mitchell counties in North Carolina. Emeralds are on both the traditional and modern lists for the proper gift for a 55th wedding anniversary. Their green color also makes the stones a fitting choice for park names, as Central Park creator Fredrick Law Olmstead created an “Emerald Necklace” of parks in Boston. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) also created his own “Emerald Necklace,” Kissena Corridor Park in Queens. Today, Commissioner Stern calls all of our parks the “Emerald Empire.”
A joint operating agreement between Parks and the Board of Education for Emerald Playground was approved on November 29, 1951 and the playground opened as P.S. 200 Playground on October 15, 1954. It was renamed Jewel Playground by Commissioner Stern in 1985, and the name has since been changed to Emerald. In 2000, this property underwent a renovation, funded by Mayor Giuliani, that changed the playground into its current form. Today, the site contains play equipment, safety surfacing, a comfort station, a spray shower, one full basketball court and four half courts, two handball courts, and picnic tables to be enjoyed by residents of Jewel Avenue and the surrounding area.