Located on Madison Street between 60th Place and Fresh Pond Road, Benninger Playground is named after former Queens Parks Commissioner Albert C. Benninger (1885-1937). Benninger was born in the town of Germany, Canada, and moved to the United States at the age of four. He joined the United States Marine Corps and served during the Spanish-American War (1898-1899). In 1905, after leaving the military, Benninger moved to the Glendale section of Queens, New York. Seven years later, he was elected Queens Assemblyman, and he later served on the Board of Aldermen. In 1916, he served briefly as Commissioner of Public Works. Two years later, Mayor John F. Hylan (1869-1936) appointed Benninger Commissioner of the Queens Parks Department. In 1928, Benninger retired from this position, but was re-appointed two years later and served until 1933. Between 1933 and 1937, he served as Federal Marshal for the Eastern District of New York.
Benninger Playground is located in Ridgewood, a neighborhood that straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border near Myrtle Avenue. The community is bounded by Metropolitan Avenue to the north, the Long Island Railroad to the east, Central Avenue to the south, and Flushing Avenue to the west. Dutch farmers displaced the region’s original inhabitants, the Mespachtes Native Americans, in the early seventeenth century. Later, English colonists gave the area the name Ridgewood for its wooded topography. In the 150 years after the area’s first European settlement, the larger surrounding communities of Queens and Brooklyn took shape. During this time, many people argued over which of these future boroughs rightly held Ridgewood. In 1769, English colonists settled the dispute by placing the “Arbitration Rock” at the intersection of Montrose and Onderdonk Avenues, officially defining Ridgewood as a part of Queens.
The City of New York acquired this property by condemnation on August 20, 1936; Parks assumed jurisdiction on the same day. In 1937, the Board of Alderman passed a resolution that named the property Albert C. Benninger Playground. When the playground opened, it featured a handball court, play equipment, and a basketball/volleyball court that could be used as a wading pool during the summer months.
Fifty years later, the playground underwent a $623,000 renovation and Parks shortened the property’s name to Benninger Playground. New handball and basketball courts, play equipment, safety surfacing, drinking fountains, fencing, and benches were added. In 1995, the playground received an $85,000 perimeter steel fence funded by Council Member Thomas V. Ognibene. Today, the facility features two handball courts, a full basketball court, assorted swings, modular play equipment, safety surfacing, a spray shower, and game tables. An inscribed bronze, bas-relief plaque, located on the outer wall of the comfort station, honors the life of Albert C. Benninger and serves as a reminder of the important contributions he made to the New York City park system.