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100% Playground

100% Playground

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

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a nameΑ” In the case of parks, a name often reflects the history of the place and the spirit of the time when the park was named. Some derive their name from a previous owner of the property, others from local streets. 100% Playground, received its name from its location on East 100th Street in Brooklyn.

Although Parks currently operates 971 playgrounds citywide, the first municipal playground was built less than a century ago. From 1865 to 1895, New York City's population more than doubled. With the enactment of the first child labor laws at the turn of the 20th century, leading reformers in New York City lobbied for the creation of a new kind of small park for the recreation of children. 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,” the playground was designed to be a "healthful influence upon morals and conduct."

Before becoming the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), an advocate of children’s rights, wrote: "If we would have our citizens contented and law-abiding, we must not sow the seeds of discontent in childhood by denying children their birthright of play." For the reformers, recreation was not an end in itself; it was directly linked to the preservation of social morality. 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, 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 – the end of his career with Parks. These large, asphalted playgrounds were designed to accommodate children of all ages, and they usually contained features such as sandboxes, see-saws, metallic jungle-gyms, swing sets and slides. This park opened in 1965 after having been designated a jointly operated facility shared by P.S. 242 and other community residents nine years earlier.

100% Playground, located on Glenwood Road between East 100 and East 101st Streets, was renovated in 1998 and 1999. New chain link and wrought iron fencing were installed. Colorful play equipment, frog sculptures, tot swings, and a spray shower were added. The existent basketball and handball courts were also improved. For visitors seeking leisure rather than recreation, the playground also offers three game tables and several benches.

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