Vincent F. Albano Jr. Playground
N/s E. 29 St., W/s 2 Ave.
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Vincent F. Albano Jr. Playground
This Kips Bay park is located on a small portion of the site for one of New York’s most ambitious unbuilt engineering projects, the Mid-Manhattan Expressway. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) acquired the parcel at the northwest corner of Second Avenue and East 29th Street as part of the right-of-way for an elevated highway, which would have run along 30th or 36th Street in order to link the Queens-Midtown Tunnel to the Lincoln Tunnel. Weaving among the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan, this route was one of the many improvements envisioned in the Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs (1929). As head of the TBTA, the Department of Parks, and numerous other city, state, and independent agencies, Robert Moses realized many of the projects outlined in the Regional Plan and attempted many others.
Plans for the Mid-Manhattan Expressway were eventually abandoned. In 1966 the TBTA extended a permit for the Department of Parks to operate the .346-acre parcel as a playground and contributed $25,000 towards its development. The playground was designed by noted architect M. Paul Friedberg in the late 1960s.
In 1989 community members celebrated the reconstruction and official naming of the playground. The $722,000 capital restoration provided a handicapped accessible play area for both children and adults along with new game tables and benches. The new design introduced brick herringbone paving, raised granite curbs, a granite information kiosk, and an ornamental steel panel fence with bronzed ginkgo and oak leaf castings.
In its early years, the playground was informally known as Nathan Straus Playground for the distinguished department store magnate and philanthropist (1848-1931). Other city parks named for Straus include Straus Square and Nathan Straus Playground, both in the Lower East Side. In 1989 Council Member Carol Greitzer introduced the legislation which named the park for Vincent F. Albano Jr. (1914-1981). Albano was the local Republican district leader for thirty-two years from 1949 until his death in 1981 and the New York Republican County Chairman from 1963 to 1981. A power in Republican circles, he lived in the neighborhood and helped to preserve the playground during a time of demolition and construction in the area.
The playground was substantially upgraded in 1998, as a result of a grant from the City Parks Foundation and a requirements contract funded by Mayor Giuliani. Improvements include play equipment, safety surfacing, handball courts, and pavements. The following year the Mary Collins Playscape was dedicated to a beloved community activist. Active in community and church affairs, Collins (1937-1997) served on Community Board 6 and the 13th Precinct Community Council. Moreover, she directed her efforts into improving conditions at Albano Playground. Collins headed the Lexington East Twenties Society (LETS) which participated in and contributed to the "Take Back Albano Park" initiative in 1996. LETS and the 13th Precinct Community Council donated funds for a Playground Associate to facilitate recreational and arts & crafts programs at the park.