Courtney Callender Playground

Courtney Callender Playground

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

This playground honors Courtney Callender (1937-1983), New York City’s first African American Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. 

Callender was born and raised in New York and went to the prestigious Stuyvesant High School. He attended Howard University for one year, and completed his education at the City College of New York, graduating in 1959. After college, Callender taught at the League School in Brooklyn, a non-profit institution that specializes in the education of children with psychiatric and developmental disabilities.

In 1965, Callender started his career in NYC Parks and became the first African American official under Commissioner Thomas Hoving. Callender was a prominent and forward-thinking NYC Parks employee. He established the Community Relations division, which initiated the policy of including the neighborhoods in park decisions. This became an integral point in NYC Parks' current mission. Callender served as a community relations officer from 1966 until 1969 when Commissioner August Heckscher appointed him deputy commissioner of Cultural Affairs.  He held that position until 1972, organizing many community events, including the Harlem Cultural Festival. Callender developed cancer and passed away on August 1983 at 46 years old. After his death, NYC Parks named a playground in his honor.

The playground is located across from P.S. 133, in East Harlem, on the corner of Fifth Avenue, between East 130th and 131st Streets, adjacent to Saint Ambrose Church. Thanks to the efforts of Callender in the birth of community involvement in parks, hundreds of local groups ensure safe and positive environments in their neighborhoods.          

Park Information

Directions to Courtney Callender Playground

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