Booker T. Washington Playground
Anibal Aviles Playground
This playground honors the memory of Anibal Aviles (1947-1966), a gifted athlete who attended nearby J.H.S. 54, where he was captain of the basketball and track teams. Raised on West 109th Street, Aviles belonged to a local Catholic Youth Organization and participated in other organized athletic programs in the neighborhood. He left school to enlist in the United States Marine Corps and fight in the Vietnam War (1964-1975). His brief life ended on March 5, 1966, when he was killed in action.
Anibal Aviles Playground is situated on West 108th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues within Manhattan Valley, the area south of Morningside Heights and north of the Upper West Side. The name “Manhattan Valley” came into use in the 1960s. It refers to the slope of Manhattan Avenue above 100th Street. The avenue grades down to the south from 104th Street to Morningside Park at 110th Street.
In the mid-19th century, this area was occupied by squatters and shantytowns, but construction of Central Park, beginning in 1859, cleared away the temporary dwellings. In the late 1870s, several asylums for the elderly and the disadvantaged were built here. The neighborhood was the original home of the New York Cancer Hospital, now the world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on the Upper East Side.
The City acquired this property on March 8, 1943 by condemnation. Initially the proposed site for the Wendell Wilkie Vocational High School, plans for building the high school were abandoned due to budget constraints. The property was then given to the Board of Education for the building of J.H.S. 54 in 1948. The adjacent property, a joint operated playground, was acquired by Parks on July 20, 1950, and a local law was passed on December 29,1969, changing the name of the playground from J.H.S. 54 Playground to Anibal Aviles Playground.
In December of 1993, this site received a $224,000 renovation sponsored by Mayor David N. Dinkins. The playground contains modular play equipment, swings, benches, wide open play areas, and a flagpole with a yardarm. It features many London planetrees (Planatus x acerifolia), a species known for its ability to survive in urban environments.