Luna Park Houses Playground
This playground and the surrounding housing complex recall the Luna Amusement Park that once occupied the site. Luna Park was one of Coney Island’s major attractions which, along with the beaches, shops, and theaters, made the area a world-famous amusement destination.
New railroad lines built after the Civil War (1861-65) provided the residents of the Cities of New York and Brooklyn a quick link to Coney Island. Hoping to create a prime resort area, developers enhanced Coney Island’s natural charms of sea and surf, by building restaurants, hotels, bathing pavilions, shops, race tracks, and theaters.
Between 1897 and 1904 three amusement parks--Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland--opened nearby along Surf Avenue, drawing huge numbers of weekend visitors from Manhattan, and spurring Coney Island’s amusement park boom. Designed by Frederick Thompson as a place of fantasy and adventure, Luna Park was one of the most consistently popular amusement parks in Coney Island. The West 10th Street park was lit at night with more than a million incandescent light bulbs and featured a simulated trip to outer space. At its peak in 1904, Luna Park attracted 90,000 visitors daily, far more than contemporary major league baseball games. Forty years later, fire destroyed the great Luna Park, and today a much smaller amusement area remains where Luna Park once stood.
Plans for this playground, located on Surf Avenue between West 8th and West 12th streets, surfaced in the mid-1950s, as part of a larger plan to revitalize the area with a housing project. In 1957, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) agreed to pay for the construction of an adjoining City-operated playground, and in August of 1962, the finished playground was given to Parks, without cost, and opened shortly thereafter.
In 1966, an additional .02 acre of land was added, in order to accommodate the overpass connecting the West 8th elevated transit station to the entrance of the New York Aquarium. From 1989 to 1990, renovations under the Neighborhood Parks Improvement Program (NPIP) installed new modular play equipment with safety surfacing, fencing, and concrete and asphalt pavements. With a name that was once synonymous with fun, today the Luna Park Houses Playground provides people of all ages a welcome place to play, rest, and relax.