Located on Sumner Avenue between Hart and Pulaski Streets, this playground is one of two parklands in New York City (the other is in the Bronx) that honors Casimir Pulaski (1748-1779), a Polish patriot and military commander in the American Revolution. The playground, the nearby Pulaski School, or Public School 304, and Pulaski Street all pay tribute to the military leader.
Pulaski was born to a noble family in the region of Podolia in present day Poland. In 1768, the twenty-year old Pulaski joined with his father to form the Confederation of Bar, a group of Polish nobles dedicated to opposing Russian influence in Poland. Though unsuccessful in the rebellion against the Russian-dominated King of Poland, Stanislaus II (1764-1795), Pulaski gained international military fame as a leader and strategist. After the Confederation was suppressed by Russian troops in 1772, he escaped first to Prussia, in present northwest Germany, and then to France.
While in Paris, Pulaski met with American diplomats Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and Silas Deane (1737-1787). The two statesmen convinced the gifted military commander to join the American Revolutionary cause. In 1777, Pulaski arrived in Boston, where he met with Continental Army commander, General George Washington. On Washington’s recommendation, Congress commissioned Pulaski as a brigadier general of cavalry in the Continental army. One year later, tired of serving under General “Mad” Anthony Wayne (1745-1796), Pulaski resigned his command and organized his own cavalry unit, the Pulaski Legion. With his Legion, he served with distinction at the Battles of Brandywine (September 1777), Germantown (October 1777), and Valley Forge (December 1777-January 1778) in Pennsylvania.
In 1779, Pulaski took part in an unsuccessful assault on a British stronghold in Savannah, Georgia. During the attack, Pulaski was mortally wounded while leading a cavalry charge into British lines. In recognition of Pulaski’s service to the fledgling nation, the United States government in 1847 dedicated a military fort to him, Fort Pulaski, located outside Savannah. In 1924, Fort Pulaski was designated a National Monument.
In 1960, the Board of Estimate acquired this 1.416-acre property for use as playground. That same year, Parks and the Board of Education assumed joint control over the property. Twenty-six years later, Parks changed the parkland’s name from P. S. 304 Playground to Pulaski Playground.
In 1988, the playground underwent a comprehensive renovation. Its existing handball, basketball, and volleyball courts were refurbished, and fencing and pavements were replaced. In addition, new wood and steel picnic tables, game tables, play and kindergarten swings, drinking fountains, and timber-form play equipment were installed. Pulaski Playground pays tribute to a Polish American hero, and provides a place for fun and relaxation.
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