This small park is a memorial to a not-quite-gone and not-quite-forgotten water feature of Lower Manhattan. When Dutch colonists settled in Manhattan in the 1620s, they learned from local Native Americans about a small brook that was full of trout. It originated near what is now Gramercy Square, burbled its way through (mostly beneath) Greenwich Village, and emptied into the Hudson at what is now West Houston Street.
Local Native Americans called the stream "Mannette," which was translated as "Devil's Water." Over the years, this name was spelled and respelled and spelled again in a variety of configurations: Minnetta, Menitti, Manetta, Minetta, Mannette, and Minetto. The Dutch called the water Mintje Kill, meaning small stream. In Dutch, "min" translates as little, "the" is a diminuitive, and "kill" translates as stream. The water was also known as Bestavers Killitie, Bestevaas Kelletye, Bestavens Killitie, Bestavers Killatie, and Bestaver's Killetje.
Several families of freed slaves, released by the Dutch, established farms and settled along the Minetta Brook as early as the 1640s. With African-Americans continuing to settle here in the 18th and 19th centuries, the area became known as "Little Africa." Most of the brook has been covered over, though some Village residents can claim that it flows beneath their basements and sometimes causes flooding. In the lobby of the apartment building at 2 Fifth Avenue, there is a transparent tube that is said to contain murky water spouting up from Minetta Brook. The brook's most recent claim to fame is providing the namesake for the Minetta Tavern, one of the original watering holes of the Beat generation.
Minetta Green is located at the southeast corner of Minetta Lane and the Avenue of the Americas. In 1934 Board of Transportation granted the Department of Parks a permit to develop this parcel for recreational purposes. A playground opened on the site the following year. After the Board of Estimate assigned this parcel to Parks in 1953, it was developed as a sitting area. Privet hedges were added around the existing pin oaks, and benches were installed.
In 1998 the City Council and the Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields funded the $742,000 reconstruction of Minetta Green and two other nearby parks, Churchill Square and Minetta Square. The rigid geometry of Minetta Green was transformed with the addition of many trees and shrubs and the creation of a curvilinear bluestone path which feature images of fish. The garden path is punctuated by small circular sitting areas with circular tree benches, world's fair benches, boulders and fluted cast iron urns. Small mounds were built up in the interior of the path to add interest to the previously flat landscape and create more of a pastoral setting.