Sgt. William Dougherty Playground

Sgt. William Dougherty Playground

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

What was here before?

This playground sits at the western edge of Greenpoint, named by 17th-century European mariners for a grassy bluff on the East River. The Dutch bought Greenpoint from the Canarsee tribe in 1638, which became part of Boswijck Township. For almost two centuries, the area thrived agriculturally and remained relatively isolated. Streets were laid during the mid-1800s, spurring industrialization and an influx of immigrants from Ireland, England, Russia, Italy, and Poland. The area became known for shipbuilding, printing, oil refining, cast-iron manufacturing, and glass and pottery making. By the 1990s, more than a third of Greenpoint’s residents were Polish immigrants or of Polish descent.

How did this site become a playground?

This playground was assigned to NYC Parks in 1924 with additions in 1935 and 1939. Under NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981), new playgrounds were constructed at an astonishing rate throughout the 1930s. With a labor force of 70,000 workers hired using federal money to stem unemployment during the Great Depression, Moses increased the number of playgrounds in New York City from 119 in 1934 to 777 in 1960. These playgrounds, often largely asphalt, were designed for use by a wide age group and featured standardized play equipment.

This playground, located near the Brooklyn entrance to the Kosciuszko Bridge, was completely redesigned and expanded in 2018. It now features colorful play equipment, a spray shower that looks like a leaf in a rock garden, basketball and handball courts, a skate park, and a new comfort station.

Who is this playground named for?

This playground honors neighborhood resident Sergeant William Dougherty (1921-1945), a member of the 165th Infantry Regiment which was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division during World War II. For his sacrifice, Sergeant Dougherty was posthumously awarded both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In 1948, this site was named after Sergeant Dougherty, who used the playground as a child.

During the Saipan Campaign, the 27th Division supported the U.S. Marine Second and Fourth Divisions. When the Marines encountered heavy enemy resistance and suffered severe losses, 27th Infantry Division was called in. The first army unit ashore was the 165th who captured the heavily defended Aslito Airfield on June 18, 1945.

On June 22, 1945, the 165th Regimental Combat Team prepared to attack an elevation that became known as “Purple Heart Ridge.” Over several days they pushed northwest, reaching the island’s west coast near Tanapag Harbor on July 4, 1945. Sergeant Dougherty was killed on July 9, 1945, the day Saipan was declared “secured.”

Park Information

Directions to Sgt. William Dougherty Playground

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