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Lieutenant John H. Martinson Playground

Lieutenant John H. Martinson Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground, adjacent to Public School 55, is named in memory of FDNY Lieutenant John H. Martinson (1967-2008) of Engine Company 249. Lt. Martinson died in the line of duty on January 3, 2008, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

John Martinson was a long-time Staten Islander. He graduated from Tottenville High School and lived in Eltingville with his wife. Martinson started his career with the Department of Sanitation, but left to join the NYPD. After being lauded and given awards for his work, Martinson followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the Fire Department. He worked in some of the busiest units in New York City, and reached the rank of Captain, opting to command a lively fire house in Brooklyn instead of one closer to his home in Staten Island. Unfortunately, Martinson died battling a two-alarm blaze in an apartment building. Through thick smoke and high temperatures, Lt. Martinson refused to leave the inferno until he was sure that his crew was out safely, though he himself was not able to make it out of the fire.

Originally, this property was on the border of two estates which stretched from the shoreline to what is now Amboy Road. The site of the playground was owned by Everard Roberts and his heirs for many years. The adjacent estate had several owners, though the most notable was Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted, a notable landscape architect, first came to Staten Island to become a farmer. However, he discovered that he had a talent for beautifying his land and that of his neighbors. Olmsted famously designed Central Park in Manhattan.

Parks first acquired this property, at the corner of Preston Avenue, Koch Boulevard, Woods of Arden Road, and Osborne Street in 1962. Originally named for the road on its border, in 1997 Parks Commissioner Henry Stern changed this playground’s name from Koch Playground to Double Nickel Playground, a play on Public School 55.  It was renamed after Lieutenant Martinson on June 5, 2009. The playground was reconstructed in 2013, providing innovative play equipment, a decorative spray shower and an amphitheater that can be used as an outdoor classroom. The project also connected sections of playground with ADA accessible routes and open vistas as well as resurfacing the existing basketball and handball courts, improved landscaping, new basketball and handball courts, play equipment, safety surfacing, benches and planting.

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