This playground takes its name from the adjacent avenue, once called Gravesend after the historic town that existed here. In 1933, the City changed the street name to honor John R. McDonald (1871-1932), who served as chief clerk at Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court, and died as a result of swallowing a chicken bone.
McDonald began his career in the Surrogate’s Court in 1893, as an attendant. He rose through the ranks, serving as deputy chief in 1930 and ascending to chief clerk when his superior retired. Two years later, McDonald swallowed a small piece of chicken bone that fatally punctured his intestine. The West Flatbush Civic League prompted local Alderman Gustav Hartung, a member of the thoroughfares committee, to propose re-naming Gravesend Avenue in McDonald’s honor. On March 14, 1933, the Board of Aldermen (equivalent to today’s City Council) passed a resolution changing the name to McDonald Avenue.