Bounded by Avenue L, East 17th and East 18th Streets, this parkland honors the memory of three Midwood residents: Paul W. Kolbert (1925-1945), Rachel Haber Cohen (1971-2000), and Rivka Greenberg Trencher (1952-1991). The park takes its name from Paul W. Kolbert, a fallen World War Two soldier and hero. Born and raised in Midwood, Kolbert lived at nearby 1325 East 18th Street with his father Joseph, his mother Rose, and his brother Melvin. He attended P. S. 97, Seth Low Junior High School, Madison High School, Brooklyn College, and St. John's University. Throughout his childhood, Kolbert was a member of Boy Scout Troop 285 and a delivery boy for The Brooklyn Eagle.
On April 2, 1943, at the age of eighteen, Kolbert chose to serve his nation in World War Two, by enlisting as a private in the United States Army. In December 1944, he transferred from anti-aircraft artillery duty to the Nineteenth Infantry Division stationed in Europe. During a battle to retake the town of Binsfield, Luxembourg, Kolbert was killed while providing needed cover fire for the evacuation of his fellow soldiers. For his selfless act, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest award for valor. On February 4, 1945, Kolbert was buried with full military honors in Union Fields Cemetery in Queens. Eleven months later, at a ceremony honoring 52 Brooklyn war heroes, his father accepted the award on his behalf. Kolbert has since become the namesake of Brooklyn's American Legion Post 1323. In 1960, the City Council enacted Local Law 21, naming this parkland to honor Paul W. Kolbert.
Within the park lies Rachel Haber Cohen Playground, which honors a dedicated public servant and mother. Born at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, Cohen was the only daughter of Manny and Shari Haber. In 1989, she graduated from Flatbush Yeshiva High School and enrolled in New York University (NYU). After graduating from NYU four years later with a degree in Communications, Cohen settled in Midwood along Ocean Parkway. In 1995, she gave birth to her beloved daughter, Esther. Four years later, Cohen joined the Mayor's Office, working on NYC 2000, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's Office for the Millennium. Her assistance in preparing for the millennium proved invaluable, as she helped to organize the Millennium Fashion Show in Times Square, as well as the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square and throughout the City. In March 2000, Cohen became suddenly ill and passed away. Six months later, this playground which Cohen enjoyed as a little girl was dedicated to her.
The focal point of the playground is the Rivka Greenberg Trencher Swing Area, named for Rivka Greenberg Trencher, who was instrumental in the reinstallation of the swings. Like Kolbert and Cohen, Trencher grew up in this neighborhood and spent much of her childhood in this park. She especially enjoyed the swing area, which in the 1950s and 1960s was a much larger area than it is today. In 1982, when the park was renovated, the swing area was torn down. Trencher, the mother of three children, protested the decision, and for years fought for the restoration of a swing area. In 1984, Trencher learned that she had serious illness. Given only a year to live by doctors, she surpassed all expectations and fought the disease for seven years. Unfortunately, in 1991, Trencher succumbed to the illness. Four years later, a new swing area was installed in Kolbert Park.
In August 1936, the City of New York acquired this property by condemnation for the sum of $87,938.40. That year, Parks assumed jurisdiction over the property, removing sections of both Ocean and Locust Avenues that traversed the property in order to create a full park area. In June 1937, the playground officially opened to the public.
In 1995, Parks completed a $800,000 renovation of the entire park funded by City Council Member Anthony D. Weiner. New modern play equipment, including a new swing area with safety surfacing, basketball and handball courts, was installed. A spray shower and a new water drainage system were constructed, and benches, gates, trees, fences and park security lighting were added to the park. Today, Kolbert Park is more than a welcome place of rest and relaxation for people of all ages; it is a memorial to a war hero, and two community members whose courage and civic pride serve as an inspiration to us all.
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