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Playground 286

Haring Playground

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

The Sheepshead Bay area experienced great economic growth at the turn of the 20th century. Following the success of the Sheepshead Bay Racetrack (1880-1915), located between Nostrand Avenue and Knapp Street, the Whitney family purchased it and converted it into the Sheepshead Bay Speedway (1915-1919). Although very successful, Henry Paine Whitney (1872-1930) sold the track in 1919 to the Joseph Day Real Estate Company to pay off gambling debts. The Real Estate Company then subdivided the area and sold parcels to various contractors who developed housing between 1919 and 1922. The developers named their streets for themselves. This street and playground was named for a developer named Haring.

The earliest playgrounds, called "sand gardens," appeared in the 1880s on the grounds of settlement houses. Furnished with innovative play equipment like see-saws, and staffed by trained recreation specialists, the playground was designed to be a "healthful influence upon morals and conduct." As Teddy Roosevelt, President of the Playground Association of America, wrote: "If we would have our citizens contented and law-abiding, we must not sow the seeds of discontent in childhood by denying children their birthright of play." For these reformers, recreation was not an end in itself: it was directly linked to the preservation of social morality. In 1903, the first municipally run playground in the United States, Seward Park, opened on the Lower East Side.

In the post-Depression 1930s, federal aid through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) enabled the City to expand and improve its play spaces. Under the strict stewardship of Parks Commisioner Robert Moses (1888-1981), new playgrounds were constructed at an astonishing rate throughout the decade. Moses was able to harness the massive manpower of Parks to add playgrounds to parks. In 1934, there were 119 playgrounds in the City; by 1960, there were 777. These playgrounds, designed for use by a wide age group, were most often large asphalt-covered areas adorned with sandboxes, seesaws, metallic jungle-gyms and monkey bars, swing sets and slides.

Acquired in 1957 by the City of New York, Haring Playground is jointly operated by the Board of Education and Parks. The site lies on Haring and Brown Streets, between Avenues Y and Z. The playground, surrounded by chain link fencing installed in 1998 with $84,315 from Mayor Giuliani, contains benches and London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia). New sidewalks, paths and pavement were installed in 1998 with $131,811 provided by the mayor. The playground features two game tables, a drinking fountain, a camel animal art sculpture, a compass paving stone, and a yardarm flagpole. Red, yellow, and green play equipment with safety surfacing and handball courts were installed in 1998 with $223,041 also provided by the mayor. Additional sporting areas include a painted baseball diamond with a park leaf in the center and basketball courts.

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