This playground and the adjacent housing project take their name from Far Rockaway’s Redfern Avenue. The playground and the housing project opened in 1953.
The origins of the name Rockaway are closely related to the language of the Delaware and Chippewa Native Americans. Linguistic experts recognize both “Reckonwacky,” meaning “the place of our own people,” and “Reckanawahaha,” meaning “the place of laughing waters,” as the area’s indigenous names. Following the region’s European colonization during the 17th century, the present name was derived from these meanings. Other interpretations include “lekau,” meaning sand, and “lechauwaak,” for fork or branch. All interpretations reflect the historic and geographic traits of the peninsula.
The Canarsie Tribe, which originally inhabited the area, sold the mostly barren land to Captain Palmer, an Englishman, with a deed granted by then Governor Thomas Dongan in 1685. Disappointed with his purchase, Palmer sold the land in 1687 to a prominent iron master from Long Island, Richard Cornell, whose descendant, Ezra, founded Cornell University in 1865.
The Cornell family owned the land until 1808, when a partition suit divided the plot into 46 parcels that were eventually sold to outsiders. The Rockaway Association, a group of wealthy New Yorkers, bought much of the property and began to build exclusive resorts in 1833. Within two years, James Remsen bought a large portion of the Peninsula. Remsen initiated a railroad project connecting the neighborhoods of Canarsie and East New York. The new railway was intended to greet steam ferries taking passengers to and from Rockaway. The Rockaway Peninsula remained a beachfront town, providing hotels, restaurants, and housing. During the 1890s, a variety of amusement parks were built. In 1897, the Village of Rockaway Park was incorporated into New York City.
Improvements in transportation, under the direction of the Triborough Bridge Authority Chairman and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) in the 1930s, led to the growth of Rockaway. The completion of two bridges, the Marine Parkway Bridge in 1937 and the Cross Bay Bridge in 1939, connected Rockaway to mainland Queens and Brooklyn. Innovations in railroad service and the development of the elevated subway allowed popular access to the peninsula. Subway access stimulated Rockaway’s growth from a vacation area to a neighborhood with permanent residents. Since the demise of Playland, Rockaway’s last amusement park in the 1980s, the peninsula has become largely residential.
This playground is located on Beach 12th Street and Redfern Avenue. The entire playground has been reconstructed since 1995 when Mayor Giuliani provided $299,948 for new play equipment with safety surfacing, swings, handball courts and basketball courts. Then, in 1999, Borough President Claire Schulman allocated $437,000 for a complete reconstruction of the baseball field. Finally, in 2001, City Council Member Juanita E. Watkins contributed $405,000 for a new comfort station complete with a weather vane on top. In addition to these improvements, the playground has London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia) to provide shade.