This playground honors Alfred Loreto (1902-1950), slain New York City Police Officer. On the evening of July 21, 1950, Loreto, off-duty, was standing near his home on Hering Avenue in the Morris Park section of the Bronx when he saw two men with guns kidnapping a neighbor. Loreto pursued the two escaping gunmen, rescued the victim, but lost his life to a bullet. The following year, a playground opened near the scene of the shooting, and the community asked Parks to name the park for Alfred Loreto. Through local law, on October 11, 1951, Parks complied with the request.
Morris Park Avenue, Tomlinson Avenue, Van Nest Avenue and Haight Avenue form the boundaries of the park, which stands on the site of the Woodmansten Inn, the former mansion of the Pearsall Family. In the 1920’s, the Inn became a roadhouse presenting music by the great performers of the era - Helen Morgan for one. It burned down in the 1930’s. Another section of the park was once the grandstand of the fabled Morris Park Racetrack built in 1888 when John A. Morris (1836-1895) acquired land in the Morris Park area. The complex included a racetrack, stables, and a five-story clubhouse in the style of a Pompeiian villa. At its peak, it was the most fashionable attraction in the Bronx. It closed in 1904.
The City of New York acquired the real estate for development in 1907. In July 1908, the Aeronautic Society of New York began to lease the racetrack from the City and used it to hold the world's first public air meet. The airfield remained in operation through December 1910, after which the land was divided into 3,019 lots and auctioned off. Private homes began appearing, and Morris Park developed into the residential area it is today.
The City of New York acquired the property for Loreto Park by condemnation for park purposes in October 1949. This community playground includes a baseball field, roller hockey rink, a bocce court, basketball courts, and handball courts. Also featured are a sprinkler and several elephant animal art sculptures.
A 1988 capital restoration project costing $445,000 installed lighting in the playground that marked the beginning of nighttime baseball here. In September 1997, a renovation of the play equipment and playground surfaces was completed with $100,000 in funds provided by Council Member Michael DeMarco. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani funded a $16,881 resurfacing of the roller hockey rink in time for the beginning of the 2000 hockey season.
In 1985, at a ceremony commemorating the 35th anniversary of Loreto's courageous act, a plaque was installed in the playground honoring Alfred Loreto and all other New York City police officers who died in the line of duty.
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