Peter Minuit Playground
Peter Minuit Playground
This playground, adjacent to P.S. 108, also known as the Peter Minuit School, is named after one of the most important figures in the history of New York City. Peter Minuit (1580-1638), born in Wesel, Germany, was a French-speaking Protestant (his name means “midnight” in French) whose family had fled to the Netherlands to escape the persecution of the Spanish Army. Minuit worked for the Dutch West India Company, a powerful corporation that had monopolized all Dutch trade with North and South America and West Africa. In 1626, Minuit landed at the mouth of the Hudson River to begin his position as the third director of the New Netherland Colony. New Netherland, the Dutch settlement established two years earlier in 1624 around Manhattan’s southern tip, was then populated by Mohican and Lenape Native Americans as well as Dutch farmers.
As legend has it, Minuit signed a treaty with the Lenapes in 1626 at what is now Inwood Hill Park, transferring ownership of the island to the Dutch West India Company for twenty-four dollars. A plaque imbedded in a stone in Inwood Park commemorates the treaty and a giant tulip tree that stood on the site for more than 200 years. Minuit served as leader of the 270 residents of New Amsterdam until 1633. During those seven years, Minuit established trade and diplomatic relations with many of the New England settlements to the north, including Plymouth. Before his death in 1638 during a hurricane on the Caribbean Sea, he also established the New Sweden settlement on the lower Delaware River. In addition to this playground and school, Minuit is also honored by Peter Minuit Plaza at the foot of Manhattan and by a granite flagstaff base in Battery Park depicting his purchase.
The land for this East Harlem playground was acquired in 1941 for recreational use by the adjacent school, P.S. 108. The original playground included a comfort station, volleyball, basketball and handball courts, and a softball diamond. In 1948, the City added a shower basin, swings, slides, seesaws, a sandpit, junior paddle tennis courts, and more basketball hoops. The playground facility was revamped again in 1957 in conjunction with the adjacent public housing project under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.
In the late 1990s, Parks targeted Peter Minuit Playground for improvements as part of the Requirements Contracts initiative, which combined in-kind replacements with innovative funding techniques to improve many deteriorating parks and playgrounds. At Peter Minuit, a series of three renovations totaling $240,000 in 1995, 1996 and 1998, provided new handball court walls, perimeter sidewalks, asphalt paving, safety surfacing, modular play equipment and a concrete dolphin sculpture. In 1997, this modern and colorful playground served as a model for the “Parks on the Move” Program, which highlights improved City playgrounds.