Chelsea Park

P.O. David Willis Basketball Court

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This basketball court is dedicated in honor of Police Officer David Willis (1964-1995). Born in Brooklyn on September 10, 1964 and raised in the Farragut Houses, Willis attended All Saints School in Brooklyn and Beach Channel High School in Queens. He pursued his interest in oceanography at the University of New England and later at LaGuardia Community College.  A member of the National Guard from 1982 to 1988, Willis completed his military service in Texas.

Willis graduated from the Police Academy in 1991, at which time he joined the NYPD 10th precinct on 20th Street in Chelsea. In patrolling Chelsea Park, he developed a good relationship with the adults and children who used the park. In his off duty hours, Willis also frequented the basketball courts, where he enjoyed watching and playing with fellow officers and young people.

Officer Willis’s life was tragically cut short when his police vehicle was hit by a truck on West 30th Street and 11th Avenue while he was responding to a report that shots had been fired on 28th Street. He died two days later, on September 25, 1995.  On July 25, 1996, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani requested that this basketball court be named for Willis.

Willis Basketball Court is located in Chelsea Park on West 28th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Since Parks first acquired the property in 1906, Chelsea Park has been an open space for sports and games. The first playground on the site opened in 1910 as a space for leisure and exercise for residents of the crowded tenement district. Competitions organized by the newly formed Board of Recreation drew thousands of spectators and participants.

After a major reconstruction project, Chelsea Park reopened in 1940 for year-round use with the addition of three basketball courts, three handball courts, softball diamonds with flood lighting, and a horseshoe court as well as asphalt surfaces for rollerskating and hockey. The grounds of P. S. 33 were assigned to Parks in 1952, further expanding the park site. In the mid-1990s, the playground and basketball courts were restored. The park is one of the most popular and widely used in lower Manhattan.

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