Since its opening in 1966, Bleecker Playground has been a social and recreational meeting place for neighborhood families and children. Its name derives from its location on Bleecker Street which once ran through the Bleecker family farm. In 1809, Anthony Lispenard Bleecker and his wife Mary ceded land to the city for the streets running through their property including Bleecker, Houston, Mercer, Wooster, Greene, Laurens (now West Broadway), Thomas and Sullivan streets.
The Bleeckers’ son Anthony (10/1770-3/13/1827) was an early Village literary figure. He was born in New York City and graduated from Columbia College in 1791. Though he studied law, Bleecker preferred writing and contributed prose and poetry to New York and Philadelphia periodicals for over thirty years. His social circle included Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant (both of whom have New York City parks named for them). Bryant once reported that a certain woman had "gone to the country to take refuge from Anthony Bleecker’s puns." Bleecker also played a role in New York cultural life as a founder of the New York Historical Society and trustee of the New York Society Library.
This land was acquired by Parks in 1963 as an extension of Abingdon Square Park, which was laid out in 1830. Its development followed the implementation of a new traffic pattern that involved the widening of Bleecker Street and elimination of part of the bed of Bank Street. A number of warehouses, as well as a circular comfort station under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works, were demolished to make room for the new playground, which was the first of its kind in the West Village. It was created as the result of cooperation between Parks and neighborhood civic groups who recognized the need for safe play spaces for local children.
Park facilities and security were greatly improved in 1997 with the completion of a $400,000 dollar capital project funded by Councilmember Tom Duane. The renovation by Parks landscape designer George Vellonakis provided new lighting, benches, shrubbery, handicap accessibility, new play equipment and the reinstallation of play equipment that was contributed by the Mollie Parnis Livingston Foundation in 1994. Animal art and decorative details were added that reflect the architecture of the Greenwich Village Historical District in which Bleecker Playground is located. The adjacent sitting area features linden trees and Chaim Gross’s statue, The Family, dedicated by the artist to former Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1992.