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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Buzz Vollmer Playground

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

This playground honors Arnold H. “Buzz” Vollmer (1915-1995), a native New Yorker who became a leading designer of bridges, highways, and parks, working closely with Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) on some of New York’s biggest construction projects.

Vollmer was born on August 26, 1915, in Washington Heights, New York. He attended Townsend Harris high school, City College, and graduated from Columbia University in 1937. Like many of his generation, Vollmer joined the United States Navy during World War II and served in the Pacific, working in intelligence operations.

Vollmer’s lifelong career in landscape architecture began immediately after college when he went to work for the firm Madigan-Hyland. His reputation for quality work and design led him to the position of chief landscape architect with Andrews & Clarke, a firm working for Robert Moses on the construction of the parks, highways, and bridges that shaped New York City. While working under Moses, Vollmer met and married a research assistant by the name of Rebecca LaMonte and together they had four children: Anna, Jane, Martha, and Mark. Vollmer received his Professional Engineering license when he became a partner and chief landscape architect for Brown & Bauvert in 1951.

In 1959 Buzz founded Vollmer Associates, or, as dubbed by the design community the “Beauty Boys” for the firm’s attention to aesthetic detail. Some of the firm’s early projects included the Nassau Expressway, Battery Park City, Fort Lee Historic Park in New Jersey, Fort Niagara State Park, North Woodmere Park in Nassau County, the Lake Welch Parkway in Harriman State Park, and a complex in Times Square. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is regarded as his best work, successfully combining engineering, landscaping, architecture, planning, surveying, and community involvement, all prerequisites for an authentic Vollmer piece. Still in existence, Vollmer Associates has completed projects throughout the United States ranging from bridges to recreational complexes.

In New York City, Vollmer is remembered for his contribution to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Vollmer Associates designed 25 food concession tents measuring 60 feet by 100 feet each, ten of which displayed fiberglass flower “air sculptures” by Victor Lundy. Vollmer Associates has since grown to include offices throughout the country, though the company still keeps its headquarters in New York City, and employs almost 400 people.

Vollmer retired in 1981, but retained a position as chairman emeritus of Vollmer Associates. During that time be became involved in numerous charitable works, and was a founding board member of the Historic House Trust, a civic organization that promotes and preserves the City’s 21 historic house museum sites. He had a swift and business-like demeanor, but was known for his sense of humor and devotion to his trade and his family. He died of leukemia on November 24, 1995.

Buzz Vollmer Playground is located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, near the United States Tennis Center and the Pitch-‘N-Putt Golf Course. In 2000, Borough President Claire Shulman provided the funding for a $300,000 renovation of the playground, as part of a larger $6 million Flushing Meadows-Corona Park project. Today, Buzz Vollmer Playground holds play equipment with safety surfacing, benches, game tables, and dinosaur animal art.

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