Lt. Clinton L .Whiting Square
Lt. Clinton L. Whiting Square
This park is named for Lieutenant Clinton L. Whiting, a First Lieutenant in the 308th Infantry, who was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for Heroism in Action on August 4, 1919 for his performance on the battlefields of World War I. While on an advance through the Argonne Forest in France between the 26th and 28th of September, 1918, Whiting was able to lead his men into a key position in a marsh covered by wire, grass, and stunted brush despite heavy enemy fire. However, Whiting paid the ultimate price for his bravery, as a machine gun bullet seriously wounded him on September 28, 1918. Whiting died from his wounds on October 23rd of that same year.
Lieutenant Clinton L. Whiting Square is located in the Woodhaven section of Queens. Members of the Ditmars, Lott, Wyckoff, Suydam, and Snediker families first settled Woodhaven in the 19th century after emigrating from the Netherlands. The families would leave their mark in New York in various ways, including lending each of their names to a number of streets.
After an 1821 law exempted Queens County from a state ban on horse racing, Woodhaven became known for its racetracks. In 1821, Union Course opened between 78th and 82nd Streets and Atlantic and Jamaica Avenues. Races were held at Union Course from 1821 until 1868, and often featured the horses owned by wealthy Northerners against those of Southern plantation owners. Another racetrack, the Centerville, located east of Woodhaven Boulevard and South of Rockaway Boulevard, opened in 1825.
Industrialist John R. Pitkin, who had originally moved to Queens from Connecticut in order to develop industry in Queens, founded the town of Woodville, which would later be renamed Woodhaven. Pitkin purchased three farms formerly owned by Dutch settlers in Queens and hoped to build a city called East New York that would rival Manhattan. However, an economic downturn in 1837 forced Pitkin to abandon his plans and concentrate on the development of Woodville. The entrepreneur opened a newspaper in the area in 1853, the year in which the residents of the neighborhood voted to change its name to Woodhaven after learning there was already a Woodville in upstate New York. In honor of his development of the area, Pitkin Avenue in Ozone Park is named after John R. Pitkin.
The City acquired Lt. Clinton L. Whiting Square by condemnation on March 26, 1916. The park was named after the World War I hero by a resolution of the Board of Aldermen on May 10, 1932. In 1997, Mayor Giuliani funded a $44,000 renovation that repaired paved surfaces and completed other site work. Today the square features a flagpole and trees that provide shade for those walking along 84th Street.