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Forest Park

Sobelsohn Playground

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

William Sobelsohn (1929–1982) was an activist in the Kew Gardens community. He was born in Brooklyn on July 6, 1929 and graduated from Queens College. He and his wife, Hermine were married in 1950, raising four children. Sobelsohn fought in the Korean War (1950-1953). On his return, he continued his father’s school in Manhattan, the Sobelsohn School, training New Yorkers for various business careers. Sobelsohn was the treasurer of the New Frontier Regular Democratic Club, and was active in the Kew Gardens Civic Association. He was a very active member of Congregation Anshe Sholom synagogue community, eventually rising to the position of vice-president. The temple named him Man of the Year in 1980. Sobelsohn died on October 10, 1982. This playground was named for him by Local Law 51 in 1983.

Kew Gardens was developed by Albon P. Man in 1868 and named by his heirs, Alrick Man and Albon Man, Jr., for the famous English botanical gardens. Kew Gardens was transformed into a large residential neighborhood with the expansion of the Long Island Rail Road in 1909. Apartment buildings and one-family houses were constructed through the 1920s, and the extension of the subway to the Union Turnpike station in 1936 resulted in another large boom of apartment buildings. Kew Gardens received many Jewish refugees during World War II (1939-1945), Chinese immigrants after 1965, and Iranian Jews after that country’s revolution in 1979. The community saw large numbers of additional immigrants during the 1980s, and remains a residential neighborhood.

Sobelsohn Playground was acquired as a part of Forest Park between 1895 and 1898. It is located at Park Lane South and Abingdon Road. At the time it was renamed in 1983, it received new asphalt, fencing, and benches. In 1991, local residents formed the Friends of Sobelsohn Playground to raise funds for new equipment and safety surfacing. Today the park contains handball and basketball courts, a comfort station, play equipment with safety surfacing, game tables and benches, swings for youth, and timberform play equipment. A $700,000 renovation, funded by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, is set to begin this year. In the summer, the playground is used by local camps, and the adjacent field is a popular spot for sunbathers and softball.

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