This playground and nearby street are named for one of New York’s first settler families, the Underhills.
Among the first to settle on Long Island, Captain John Underhill (c.1597-1672) arrived in New Amsterdam (as New York City was then known) around 1664. His descendant, James Underhill (1764-1816) was born in North Hempstead, Long Island and made his home in the Jamaica section of Long Island (now Queens). He served as an Elder in the area beginning on May 14, 1805 and as an Overseer as of 1811. Another Underhill, James Underhill (1784-1855) was born in Yorktown, New York. He lived in White Plains, New York and died in the 9th Ward of New York City. His remains are located in Brooklyn’s historic Greenwood Cemetery, not far from the location of Underhill Avenue. Another James Underhill (1799-1887), lived at 143 South Oxford Street, only a few blocks from Underhill Avenue. He also owned farmland in White Plains, New York.
Parks acquired this property, located at the intersection of Underhill Avenue, Prospect Place, and Park Place, from the City in 1940. Parks Commissioner Henry Stern renamed the park Underhill Playground in 1985. In 1986, the playground received $1 million from Mayor Edward I. Koch for a reconstruction that brought new benches, a flagpole with a yardarm, red and yellow paving stones, blue, orange, and purple play equipment, a spray shower, handball walls, and tot swings. The playground was made wheelchair accessible with access ramps and an all brick wheelchair accommodating comfort station.
In 1996, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani added $16,900 in funding for new safety surfacing and Borough President Howard Golden contributed $130,000 for wrought iron surrounding fences featuring duck animal art. The playground has many grassy areas and trees surrounding the play area.