Martin Van Buren Playground
Best known as the eighth president of the United States (1837-1841), Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) was born in Kinderhook, New York in 1782. He completed his formal education by the age of 14, and was admitted to the New York state bar at the age of 21. In 1812, he was elected to the State Senate and rose rapidly to become a state party leader. This brought him into conflict with De Witt Clinton, the powerful governor of New York. The two battled for control of the state Democratic-Republican party throughout the early nineteenth century, with Van Buren emerging as the victor. Van Buren’s followers came to be known as Bucktails, for the buckails they wore on their hats when they attended political meetings.
In 1821, Van Buren was elected to the United States Senate where he again rose to prominence. Seven years later, he was elected governor of New York, but resigned after only one year when President Andrew Jackson offered him an appointment as Secretary of State. Van Buren proved himself an able Secretary of State, establishing himself as Jackson’s successor. He resigned from the Cabinet in 1831 in a move calculated to win Jackson’s further support. His tactic paid off when Jackson named Van Buren his running mate for the next election. Elected Vice-President in 1832, Van Buren served until 1836. In 1836, with Jackson’s firm support, he was elected President by a wide margin.
Although Van Buren’s presidency opened with great promise, it soon floundered. The Panic of 1837, which drove the country into a depression, as well as a series of incidents that nearly led to another war with Great Britain destroyed Van Buren’s popularity. In the election of 1840, he lost to William Henry Harrison who made famous the “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” campaign slogan. Notwithstanding his eventual defeat, Van Buren implemented several important government innovations during his presidency. These included an independent treasury system, which ended federal reliance on state banks, and a 10-hour workday for federal employees. After his presidency, Van Buren continued to remain active in New York and national politics for many years afterwards. He died in his hometown of Kinderhook in 1862, at the age of 79.
Martin Van Buren Playground is located in Crotona Park, the largest park in the south Bronx, and the sixth largest park in the borough. The City acquired the property from Andrew Bathgate as part of the consolidation of the Bronx park system in 1888. Even before the city acquired the land, it had served as a park. The Bathgate family permitted members of the public to come and picnic on their land nearby what is now known as Indian Lake. After the city acquired the land, it was to be named after the Bathgates. Unfortunately, a Parks engineer had a spat with the family and instead named the park Crotona, in homage to Croton, an ancient Greek colony known for its athletes. The name has served the park well, as Crotona Park’s athletic facilities have played host to many athletes, including Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg (1911-1986).
Directions to Crotona Park
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Crotona Park Nature Center
The Crotona Park Nature Center is currently closed, with no public access.
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