Harry Chapin Playground
Harry Chapin Playground
This playground is named in honor of the singer and songwriter Harry Chapin (1942-1981).
Born in New York City, Chapin grew up in Brooklyn Heights, and he and his brothers often played in this very park. Chapin studied at the Air Force Academy and at Cornell University, and later worked in theater and film. He and his wife, Sandra Gaston, had five children. Chapin’s best-known songs include “Taxi” and “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Chapin worked to eliminate world hunger; his efforts included lobbying Congress on behalf of President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on World Hunger. He gave more than 100 benefit concerts a year, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable, environmental, and political causes. Chapin’s life was cut short in 1981, when he was killed in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway. He was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
Harry Chapin Playground, located at Columbia Heights and Middagh Street, is set in historic Brooklyn Heights. The Dutch were the first to purchase settlements in Brooklyn from the Lenape, or Canarsee, Indians, who called the area Ihpetonga. Known as Brookland Heights in the early 1800s, the area remained sparsely inhabited until 1814, when Robert Fulton’s new steam ferry began to offer an easy daily commute to and from downtown Manhattan. In the 1820s large farms were divided up into lots measuring 25 x 100 feet for the construction of single family homes, and the Heights became Manhattan’s first suburb. In 1965, Brooklyn Heights became the first officially designated historic district in New York City.
The City of New York acquired the land for Harry Chapin Playground by condemnation in 1945. The site was named in 1986 by a local law sponsored by Council Member Abraham G. Gerges and signed into law by Mayor Edward I. Koch. On July 29, 1987, a dedication ceremony was held to rename the park Harry Chapin Playground. The site features play equipment, tot swings, safety surfacing, and benches as well as a drinking fountain, and game tables. Pin oak trees (Quercus palustris) and American lindens (Tilia americana) grow in and around the playground. A plaque above the Middagh Street entrance is dedicated to Dr. Virginia Travell Weeks (1900-1981), a pediatrician and humanitarian who served the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.