This playground takes its name from the northeastern Queens neighborhood in which it stands. The neighborhood of Oakland Gardens is bounded to the north by 48th Avenue, to the east by Alley Pond Park, to the south by Union Turnpike, and to the west by Cunningham Park. John Hicks, who was given one of the first grants of Dutch land in Flushing, settled in the area in 1645. In the early 19th century, the land was passed to the Lawrence family, and in 1847, Fredrick Newbold Lawrence built The Oaks mansion. The Oakland name probably dates back to that estate.
The next owner of the property was a restaurant entrepreneur from Manhattan named John Taylor who bought the estate in 1859. His son, John H. Taylor, subsequently inherited the property in 1886 and organized the Oakland Golf Club in 1896, becoming the organization’s first president. After 1911, the Club bought the golf course and the Draper Reality Company of Manhattan bought the rest of the land and turned it into building lots. In 1952, Morton Pickman from Forest Hills bought the club, but his plans to build high rise apartment buildings on the land were blocked by neighborhood protests. He later sold the land.
The City of New York bought the Golf Club in the early 1960s and on its newly acquired land built the Queensborough Community College, Benjamin Cardozo High School, and P.S. 203. The Queensborough Community College, a Junior College of the City University of New York, was opened in 1958. Before a new 34-acre campus was completed in 1978, students attended classes at several locations nearby, including the third floor of P.S. 203. The college is distinguished for offering the only program in the state for laser and fiber optics, and it runs a highly regarded program called External Education for the Homebound.
This playground, jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education, was officially opened to the public on July 7, 1964. The school was built to provide facilities for children in the Oakland Gardens section of Queens and to relieve overcrowding at P.S. 31, 130, and 162. Parks Commissioner Henry Stern changed the name of the playground from P.S. 203 Playground to Oakland Gardens in 1985.
In 1999, City Council Member Sheldon S. Leffler allocated $912,000 for the reconstruction of the site. This playground is home to four sets of play equipment and two swing sets, all with new safety surfacing. There are new benches and a flagpole with a yardarm. The park’s attractive cement art inlaid into the ground includes a compass and a butterfly-shaped spray shower. There are also basketball courts, handball courts, and a new metal drinking fountain.