Frederick B. Judge Playground
Lincoln Park/Judge Playground
This playground was not named until 1956, when it was titled by local law of the City Council in honor of Frederick B. Judge (1885-1955). Judge, a resident of South Ozone Park, served in France during World War I as Captain of the 20th Army Corps of Engineers for the United States Army. He participated in battles at St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, where one of the largest artillery bombardments of the war occurred. After returning home, Judge became an active member of American Legion Post #28 and was frequently involved in local civic affairs.
In the 1820s, the surrounding neighborhood of Ozone Park was famous for its two prominent horseracing facilities, the Centerville Race Track and the Union Course Race Track. At one race in 1823 featuring the best horses from the North and the South, 50,000 people came to the largely undeveloped area and wagered a total of about $200,000, an enormous sum for the day. Music publisher Benjamin W. Hitchcock developed Ozone Park in the 1880s and marketed the area for its “invigorating and healthful breezes” sweeping in from Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Although today we associate “ozone” with environmental troubles, at the time Hitchcock named the area, the word connoted pleasant breezes and peaceful pastoral scenes, very attractive images to bustling city dwellers.
In 1907, real estate developer David Leahy began to build small homes in the fields south of Ozone Park. He lured middle-class buyers with the promise that only a small down payment and additional monthly fees would secure them a “four-room cottage in the country.” Elevated train service to Jamaica began in 1908, making the area even more attractive to families wanting an escape from the busy city. Rockaway Boulevard, the area’s main commercial strip, was completed in 1922, and by 1957, the bordering neighborhoods of Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill South together boasted a population of more than 130,000 residents. The horse racing tradition in Ozone Park continues today at Aqueduct Racetrack, located at Rockaway Boulevard and Southern Parkway.
South Ozone Park grew into a bustling community, and the neighborhood’s many residents needed recreation space. Parks acquired the playground land in a purchase from William Zagarino in 1936, and soon after developed the area into a play space. At its opening, the playground featured a baseball field, swing sets, slides, and handball and basketball courts.
This playground is bounded in part by Lincoln Street, Linden Boulevard, and 135th Street. The park’s first rehabilitation was completed on October 11, 1985, and included the installation of new play equipment. Ten years later, the site underwent extensive renovations, including improvements to the basketball courts and lighting. In 1998, Parks renamed the playground the Lincoln Park/Judge Playground, incorporating the patriotic name of one of its bounding streets. Also in 1998, the baseball field were renovated, and colorful modular play equipment and a children’s spray shower were installed. The renovation also included the construction of a Greenstreet at the tip on the park. Initially begun in 1986 and revived in 1994, Greenstreets is a program run by Parks that takes concrete areas and plants trees and shrubs, making the pavement spring to life. The Greenstreet at the Lincoln Park/Judge Playground included the addition of oak trees, helping to recapture the country escape envisioned for the neighborhood at the turn of the 20th century.