Captain Jacob Joseph Playground
Jacob Joseph Playground
This playground, bounded by Henry and Rutgers Streets, is named in memory of Captain Jacob Joseph (1920-1942), a member of the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and scion of a family devoted to religious education and civic affairs. Born and raised in New York, Joseph left Columbia University as a junior in 1938 to enlist in the Marines. Joseph died in action at Guadalcanal on October 22, 1942. Five years later, a local law named this playground in his honor. The dedication ceremony was attended by Mayor William O’Dwyer, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, Councilman Stanley Isaacs, and Joseph’s father, City Comptroller, Lazarus Joseph. Parks also unveiled a bronze commemorative plaque on the flagstaff, which celebrates the life and bravery of Capt. Joseph.
This playground was built in part to meet the needs of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, named after Capt. Joseph’s great-grandfather. Rabbi Jacob Joseph (1840-1902) was the first Chief Rabbi in New York City. Born in Vilna, Poland, he came to the United States at the request of the New York Jewish community. After his death in 1902, Rabbi Joseph’s son, Raphael Joseph, and Samuel I. Andron obtained a charter from the Board of Regents in 1903 to establish the school. The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School was known for its rigorous Tamuldic curriculum and remains open to students from nursery age through the eighth grade. Its founders originally established the school on Manhattan’s Orchard Street but later moved it to Henry Street. In 1976, the school moved to the Graniteville area of Staten Island with separate boys’ and girls’ school facilities.
The city obtained the land that is now the site of this playground in 1930 for easement purposes for the construction of the Independent Subway (IND), now known as the F line. Parks acquired the land by permit from the Board of Transportation in 1934, but did not gain official jurisdiction until 1961. The Board of Estimate transferred the land to Parks to ensure the continuance of the playground. Constructed in a neighborhood with a great need for open space, the playground now provides play space for the children of Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
In 1996, Parks completed a $59,000 renovation of this playground. Sponsored by the mayor’s executive budget, this reconstruction included new safety surfacing and colorful modular play equipment. In addition, the new turtle animal art provides a playful aesthetic and a functional climbing structure for the children. This playground serves as a lasting memorial to a World War II hero, as well as to notable members of the Joseph family who have contributed to the surrounding neighborhood and to the larger New York City community.