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Private William Gray Park

Private William E. Gray Park

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

This park honors Private William Earl Gray (1947-1967) who lived in Corona and made the ultimate sacrifice for his country during the Vietnam War.

Born in Stanton, Tennessee, Gray had four sisters and five brothers. In 1956, the family moved to New York. He attended the Brooklyn Automotive High School on Bedford Avenue, where he enjoyed playing basketball. Gray enlisted in the United States Army when he was 18 and he went to Vietnam as a Private First Class with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. His tour of duty began in December of 1966, and in February 1967 he was severely wounded in combat in Gia Dihn, South Vietnam. He soon died from his injuries.

The playground, nestled on 98th Street between Northern Boulevard and 32nd Avenue, is an example of a “vest-pocket park.” The construction of this type of small urban greenspace was very popular in the 1960s. In May 1967, Parks obtained a permit from the Department of Real Estate allowing Parks to use and maintain the property. The playground was developed through a Federal Urban Beautification Demonstration Grant, issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Edward Fisher (1904-1970), a member of East Elmhurst – North Corona Community Board 3, was responsible for naming this park after Private Gray. Fisher was a neighbor, friend, and mentor to Gray, and wanted to honor the young soldier after his death in the Vietnam War. Mayor John V. Lindsay and Parks Commissioner August Heckscher were among those present at the dedication ceremony in the summer of 1968.

In 1990, Parks installed colorful play equipment with safety surfacing as well as benches and plantings. Nonetheless, Parks did not officially acquire this property from the City until 1992. That year, Parks planted several new trees, including Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), Shadblow downy (Amelanchier canandensis), Chinese scholartree (Sophora japonica), Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora), Threespine barberry (Barberry triacanthophora), Spreading english yew (Taxus baccata), and Fragrant viburnum (virburnum farreri).

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