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Fort Tryon Park

Jacob K. Javits Playground

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

Jacob Koppel Javits (1904-1986) was a towering figure in New York politics. He began his 34-year career in 1947 as a United States Congressman for the Washington Heights/Inwood district, and sponsored legislation concerning civil rights, health care, and social welfare. He left Congress in 1955 to serve as New York State Attorney General until 1957, when he was elected United States Senator. Javits held his post for 24 years. At the time of his defeat in 1980, he was the longest-serving Senator in history.

Jacob Javits was born on the Lower East Side to Russian Jewish parents. He lived variously in Brooklyn and Manhattan, including this neighborhood, on West 192nd Street, when he was 15. A graduate of Columbia University and New York University School of Law, he served as an assistant to the Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service in the United States Army. In 1943 and 1944, Javits served in both the European and Pacific Theater of Operations, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He received his discharge in 1945, after being awarded both the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Ribbon. He married Marion Ann Borris two years later and they had three children: Joy, Joshua, and Carla.

As Senator, Javits is remembered for having a progressive voice, which represented a highly liberal wing of the Republican Party. His most significant acts of legislation were the War Powers Resolution (1973), which limited Presidential authority during wartime, and the Pension Reform Act (1974), which safeguarded the retirement pensions of over 50 million Americans. In 1984, a massive mirrored-glass convention center was built on 38th Street and 11th Avenue in Manhattan and named for Javits.

Senator Javits was present at the dedication of this playground, though he was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease at the time. Mayor Edward I. Koch commented on the significance of this rare situation saying: “We have a Senator who is so beloved and who has overcome such enormous difficulties that he’s become an inspiration in his lifetime.” The Senator replied “This is a very touching ceremony for me and I hope and pray that my life has been valid enough to be a role model to the children who will play here and learn to live with their neighbors.”

Margaret Corbin Circle, Fort Washington, and 193rd Street bound Jacob K. Javits Playground. Between 1935 and 1937, Empire Mortgage leased this property to the City of New York. Per the agreement, the playground was and continues to be operated as a parcel within Fort Tryon Park. In February 1944, Empire Mortgage deeded the property to the city as a gift. In December 1981, the Department of General Services placed Jacob K. Javits Playground under Parks jurisdiction. In 1982, the City Council assigned the playground’s present name via local law. Parks officially dedicated the facility on June 2, 1985, and continues to maintain it.

In 1995, Jacob K. Javits Playground received a $50,000 renovation sponsored by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. The improvements featured the installation of safety surfacing. The playground includes benches, a full basketball court, a basketball standard, two tire swings, and play equipment. A cast iron fence and large stone gates bound the facility. The property’s flora includes numerous American and Siberian elm trees. Looking west, through a lush canopy of trees, park goers enjoy splendid views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades.

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ParkFort Tryon Park

The path and stairs in Fort Tryon Park that lead to the Cloisters are currently under reconstruction. The fencing and lighting along the pathway will also be reconstructed and upgraded.
Anticipated Completion: Spring 2015

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