Niles Triangle, named for William White Niles (1861-1935), is located along Bronx Boulevard at East 226 Street. The site was acquired as part of the greater Bronx Park between December 1888 and January 1889.
It is difficult to overstate the impact that William White Niles had in the development of Bronx Parks. Niles was born in 1861 in Waterford, New York, to William and Isabel Niles. He attended Dartmouth College and Albany Law School, and practiced law in New York City.
In 1881, Niles helped found the New York Park Association. The Association presented comparative studies of parkland in foreign cities, predictions of rapid population growth in New York, and rising land values in a call for more parkland in the Bronx, which was annexed by New York City in 1874. This effort culminated in the 1884 New Parks Act and the city’s 1888-90 purchase of lands for Van Cortlandt, Claremont, Crotona, Bronx, St. Mary’s, and Pelham Bay Parks and the Mosholu, Pelham, and Crotona Parkways. The new properties increased the city’s parkland fivefold, from about 1,000 acres to about 5,000 acres.
Niles joined the New York Bar in 1885, established the firm of Niles & Johnson in 1891, and was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1895. In 1900, he served as counsel to subcommittee on the borough government of the New York City Charter-Revision Commission. He was also a member of several civic and social organizations. Niles served as president of the Bronx Society of Arts and Sciences and the Bronx Board of Trade, vice-president of the Citizens Union and the Tree Planting Association, and a member of the City Planning Commission. He married Florence M. Brown in 1912, and they had three children named Charlotte, Roma, and William.
Niles continued to strive for the development of Bronx parkland along the Bronx River. The 23-mile river had been greatly contaminated, and Niles was one of many that called for a solution to protect the quality of Bronx Park. The Bronx River Sewer Commission was established in 1905 and the Bronx River Parkway Commission was created in 1906 to reduce the sewage and beautify the edge of the river. Niles, a Bronx resident, served as the vice-president of the Bronx River Parkway Commission from 1907 to 1925. The commission sought the acquisition of land along the river, and the long process was hailed as a success when the Bronx River Parkway opened in 1925. Niles became head of the Taconic State Park Commission in 1927.
Niles died in Riverdale on January 12, 1935. Three years after his death, a memorial was erected in his memory at 226th Street and Bronx Boulevard. Dedicated in 1938, the bronze plaque is embedded in granite at the base of a central flagstaff with yardarm that is ringed with benches, shrubs and mature Pin oaks.
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