In the case of parks, a name often reflects the history of the place and the spirit of the time in which the park was named. Some parks derive their name from a previous property owner, others from local streets. 100% Playground, located here in Brooklyn’s Carnarsie neighborhood, received its name from its location on East 100th Street.
Until the late 1920s, the surrounding neighborhood was defined by impassible roads and the land was thick with trees. But in August 1929, the City of New York carved out new streets and taxable lots for sale. Two of the earliest parcel owners were the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation – which had a rail car storage lot adjacent to this site – and the City itself. Worried the new lots would be very attractive to the growing transit company the City quickly purchased this lot between 100th and 101st Streets, Glenwood Road and Flatlands Avenue to build a much-needed elementary school in 1931. Public School 242 first opened in 1935, but has been Olympus Academy High School since 2008.
Although NYC Parks operates nearly 1,000 playgrounds citywide today, the first municipal playground was built less than a century ago. The earliest playgrounds, called "sand gardens," appeared in the 1880s on the grounds of settlement houses. Furnished with innovative play equipment and staffed by trained “recreation specialists,” playgrounds were designed to be a "healthful influence upon morals and conduct." Groups such as the New York Society for Parks and Playgrounds formed to raise awareness of the importance of play for children's health. The Society organized parades of mothers and babies, planned public meetings to demonstrate the use of the see-saw, and opened its own playground on Second Avenue and 91st Street. In 1903, the first municipally-run playground in the United States, Seward Park, opened on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
In the 1930s, federal aid through the Works Progress Administration enabled the City to greatly expand and improve its play spaces. Under the stewardship of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888 – 1981), new playgrounds were constructed at an astonishing rate throughout the decade. Moses and his 80,000 employees increased the number of playgrounds in New York City from 119 in 1934 to 777 by 1960. These large, asphalted playgrounds were designed to accommodate children of all ages, and they usually contained features such as sandboxes, see-saws, metal jungle-gyms, swing sets and slides.
Starting in 1938, the Department of Education agreed to provide land next to schools where NYC Parks could build and maintain new playgrounds. The site of 100% Playground remained empty as late as 1950 but by 1956, designated a jointly operated facility shared by P.S. 242 and other community residents. 100% Playground officially opened in 1965.
The park was renovated in the late 1990s with new chain link and wrought iron fencing, and colorful play equipment, frog sculptures, tot swings, and a spray shower were added. The existing basketball and handball courts were also improved. For visitors seeking leisure rather than recreation, the playground also offers three game tables and several benches.