Raymond M. O’Connor Field
This park is named for journalist, war veteran and municipal employee Raymond M. O’Connor (1892-1931). It was established as part of the massive expansion of recreational facilities, largely through Federal emergency relief funding, which took place in the 1930s under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. In 1931 the city purchased property in the Bayside neighborhood of Queens for $95,000 to create a public playground and thoroughfare. In 1933 and 1934 the western parcels, now bounded by 208th Street, Corporal Kennedy Street and 32nd and 33rd Avenues, were transferred to the Board of Education for the construction of Bayside High School. The remainder of the land was landscaped with lawns, shade trees and sidewalks by the Queens Borough President. Later improvements made by the Parks Department included the installation of a children’s play apparatus, a sports field, and a wading pool. The playground was opened along with six other new playgrounds on November 22, 1935. Present at the dedication were Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Commissioner Moses, the head of the Federal Works Progress Administration, Harry L. Hopkins, and Queens Borough President George U. Harvey.
Raymond O’Connor was born in Saratoga, New York on February 9, 1892. The son of Brooklyn State Senator Eugene F. O’Connor, he went to work as an office boy for the weekly Queens County News. O’Connor served in succession as a reporter, secretary of the Queens County News Company, and then, when the paper became a daily, vice-president for publishing. After serving in the military in World War I, O’Connor ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Alderman from Flushing and Jamaica, where he lived. In 1929 he was appointed as assistant to Borough President Harvey, who himself has a public park named for him in Whitestone. Following O’Connor’s death at the age of 39 in 1931, the Board of Aldermen named this park for him in recognition of his service as a war veteran, newspaperman, and public official.
Councilmember Michael J. Abel funded a $373,000 reconstruction of the playground in 1997. Features of the park renovation included replacing the wading pool with a modular play structure and adding a water spray area with two cast-concrete seals. Safety surfacing, swings, benches, a flagpole and a weathervane were also installed and perimeter shrubbery was planted.