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Pelham Bay Park

Aileen B. Ryan Recreational Complex

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

The Aileen B. Ryan (1912-1987) Recreational Complex honors a true New Yorker and ardent supporter of Parks. Born Aileen Barlow on September 5, 1912, in Clasons Point in the Bronx, she attended P.S. 47, Cathedral High School, Hunter College, and New York University School of Law. She married lawyer E. Gerald Ryan on September 9, 1939, and worked as director of the Museum of the City of New York and taught public school for ten years. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer she decided that she would do better to serve her community and ran for a seat in the State Assembly. Aileen B. Ryan was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1958.

She served in the State Assembly until 1965 when she was elected as the Bronx Democratic Council Member-at-Large. Ryan filled this post until the United States Supreme Court ruled at-large seats unconstitutional in 1983. Ryan sponsored important legislation for consumers, including a requirement that all milk have an expiration date, and a mandate that supermarkets list unit and package prices. She supported allowing women into many all-male organizations, was a member of the Mayor’s Pension Committee, the Mayor’s Committees on International Women’s Year and the Status of Women, and was the chair of the General Welfare Committee.

Ryan was a member of 56 philanthropic organizations including the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, the Siwanoy Democratic Club, the Bronx Historical Society, the League of Women Voters, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club of New York. Her many honors included being named a Lady in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and Irishwoman of the Year by the Emerald Society of the Department of Correction. Ryan was also an active parishioner at St. Helena’s Roman Catholic Church.

She died of cancer in Point Lookout, Long Island, on August 8, 1987. Ryan left three children, Gerald, Alanna, and Francis, and three grandchildren, Richard, Alanna, and Melissa. A bill was introduced by Council Member Michael DeMarco on April 24, 1990, to name the complex after Ryan.

The Aileen B. Ryan Recreational Complex is situated on the site of the former Rice Stadium. Named for benefactor Isaac Leopold Rice (1850-1915) the stadium site was opened in 1923 and included a running track, football field, tennis courts, and a swimming pool and lockers. Rice Stadium was razed in 1989. Located on the edge of Pelham Bay Park near Buhre Avenue and the Bruckner Expressway, the Aileen B. Ryan Recreational Complex includes the Playground for All Children, a comfort station, a running track, and ball fields. The playground was constructed for disabled children in 1993 with a $20,000 grant from the City Parks Foundation. It includes transfer units, ramps, a balance chain, a suspension bridge, and a pull-up bar.

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