Like its larger neighbor west of the BMT Brighton Beach transit line, Kelly Playground is named for postmaster William E. Kelly (1872-1929). Born in Brooklyn, Kelly attended P.S. 9, P.S. 41, and evening high school. After graduating with honors, he worked as an errand boy at Harper Brothers publishers. He was also an amateur boxer. In 1894 Kelly was hired by the Kings County post office, then the sixth largest in the nation. He rose through the ranks. He was president of the National Letter Carriers Association, from 1907 to 1913. He served as superintendent and assistant to the postmaster before President Woodrow Wilson appointed him as county postmaster. Kelly served in this position from March 1914 to December 1915. Kelly resigned as postmaster to serve as Clerk of Kings County, a public office, which he held from January 1916 until he died on September 20, 1929. Kelly’s funeral at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church in Brooklyn was attended by more than 10,000 mourners; the 250 honorary pallbearers included former Governor Alfred E. Smith and Mayor James J. Walker.
During the late 19th century, this was a neighborhood of small houses on large plots of land. In 1889, the city acquired these plots to build a pumping station for the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electric. The main pump house stood at the south of the area, almost exactly where the Homecrest Medical Center now stands. By the late 1930s, the pumping station had become obsolete, and Parks was assigned this area for recreational purposes. This new section was developed, along with the existing Kelly Park counterpart, as part of the 1940 Works Progress Administration renovation. In 1953, Parks gave the Board of Education part of the property for the construction of P.S. 255 and agreed to jointly operate the remainder of the park as playground for the new school. At that time, neighboring East 17th Street was closed off and an access road connecting East 16th and 17th Street was built called School Place. In 1961, it was named by local law to honor Holland A. Moore, a builder and civic worker from Flatbush.
Public School 255 was originally named for William Kelly as well but, in 1994, the Board of Education rededicated it in honor of Barbara Reing (1933-1992). As a teacher and supervisor of special education at P.S. 255 for nearly 20 years, Ms. Reing concentrated on mainstreaming her students, years before the concept became popular. This innovative educator died of cancer in 1992. She had worked until a week before she passed away.
Today, this playground serves the children of P.S. 255, as well as the neighboring community, with an assortment of amenities, many of which were provided in 1995, thanks to a $650,000 appropriation from Borough President Howard Golden. On the north side, modern play equipment with safety surfacing below, and toddler swings are interspersed within a series of benches. The southern section of the park includes several basketball courts and four handball courts. Tucked in a shady corner of the playground, a concrete sculpture of a seal serves as an attractive piece of animal art and an additional climbing structure for youngsters.