Green Central Knoll
Green Central Knoll Playground
Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” In the case of parks, a name often reflects the history of the place and the spirit of the time when the park was named. Many small parks were named after local World War I heroes during the 1930s and early ‘40s, recalling acts of courage in the midst of troubled times. Others are named after prominent local figures, allowing the deceased to remain an important part of the community. Some derive their name from a previous owner of the property, others from local streets. Green Central Knoll Playground’s name is unusual in that it combines the names of all three streets that bound it: Evergreen Avenue, Central Avenue, and Knoll Street. Evergreen was so named because it led to the Cemetery of the Evergreens. Central drew its name from its once-central location within the community, while Knoll was named after a local businessman.
The neighborhood of Bushwick dates back to 1638, when Dutch settlers purchased the land from the Canarsie Indians. Peter Stuyvesant (1610-1672), the legendary Dutch governor, chartered the area in 1661 and named it Boswyck, meaning “refuge in the woods” or “heavy woods.” Farms that produced food and tobacco for local consumption originally dominated the area. The economy evolved, and by the late 19th and early 20th centuries the area was dominated by breweries, the most famous of which were Rheingold and Schlitz.
This specific playground was once the site of the Rheingold Brewery. In 1855, Samuel Liebmann, a German immigrant, founded its forerunner, Liebmann Breweries, which his sons took over upon his death in 1872. The sons expanded the business, buying and consolidating several smaller brewing companies, and in the 1880s, Rheingold became the company’s premier brand. The firm continued to grow, and between 1940 and 1965 it ran a famous promotional beauty contest, in which customers cast ballots to select Miss Rheingold.
Despite its glamorous image, the brewery was unable to compete with a national spirits trade that boasted massive advertising budgets, state-of-the-art facilities, and national distribution systems. In 1964, the Liebmann family sold the brewery to Pepsi-Cola United Bottlers, who renamed it Rheingold Brewery. Sales continued to decline, and it was sold to Chock Full O’Nuts in 1974. The Brooklyn factory closed in 1976, and in 1977, the Rheingold Brewery was bought by C. Schmidt and Sons, a Philadelphia firm who soon left the business.
After the factory closed, it was taken over by the City for non-payment of taxes in 1979, and was designated for commercial development in 1980. However, the property’s proximity to P.S. 145, combined with local demand for a ballfield, dictated otherwise. In 1997, the Department of Citywide Administration Services assigned the property to Parks, and Parks developed the site.
In the last few years, Borough President Howard Golden sponsored a $2,961,000 multi-phased reconstruction project that produced a beautifully manicured baseball field, play equipment with safety surfacing, a sitting area with plantings, benches, a bear sculpture, a drinking fountain, and a decorative gate. The playground design reflects a nautical theme with a Parks flag perched on a yardarm and mast located at the highest point. Water runs from this area through a rocky stream bed. The stream has brass casts of fish, such as perch, trout and bass. The stream meanders downward to the park’s lower end where the water pours into a catch basin adjacent to an area adorned with spray showers. The park has since become a popular gathering place for children and adults from the neighborhood to play, talk, or just to sit and enjoy the greenery.