Florence Colucci Playground
This playground is named for community activist Florence Colucci (1921-1982), a resident of Pelham Bay for more than 38 years who worked tirelessly on behalf of her neighborhood. Born in Shrub Oak, New York, Colucci founded and presided over the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Civic Association, the first organization of its kind in the Bronx. Colucci served as a member of Community Board #10, as chairperson of the Northeast Bronx Committee for Neighborhood Schools, and she was active in the Ladies Auxiliary of various veterans organizations and in several charitable organizations -- including the Cancer Fund, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the March of Dimes. Through her weekly column in the local newspaper The News Sentinel, Colucci also became known as “The Voice of Pelham Bay.”
One of Colucci’s community efforts centered on lobbying for the construction of a multipurpose playground on this lot, which some had proposed to turn into a homeless shelter. When the park was built in 1969, it was unofficially dedicated to Colucci by Mayor John V. Lindsay (1921- 2000), who saluted her efforts to transform what was a vacant lot into this parkland. Six months after her death in 1983, the City Council passed a local law naming the playground in her honor.
Florence Colucci Playground is bounded by Wilkinson Avenue, Mayflower Avenue and the Hutchinson River Parkway. Wilkinson Avenue is named for Robert and Ellen Wilkinson, former owners of a 16-acre estate on Westchester Avenue. What was originally Mapes Avenue, named for the Mapes farm, became Mayflower Avenue in 1898 to mesh with the early American flavor of other streets in the area such as Pilgrim, Puritan, and Plymouth Avenues. The Hutchinson River Parkway runs parallel to the Hutchinson River, which is named for the region’s earliest known settler, Ann Hutchinson (1591-1643), a religious leader in the Massachusetts Bay Colony who was slain by Native Americans.
Parks acquired this property through condemnation on March 31, 1938. In 1995, the playground was reconstructed as part of the Neighborhood Parks Improvement Program. The renovation included the installation of new play equipment, basketball backboards, benches, game tables, picnic tables, drinking fountains, spray showers, and a complete rebuilding of the playground’s infrastructure. Each year in June, neighboring schools celebrate their field days here, and throughout the summertime, the Police Athletic League uses the park as a venue for its programs.