“Walter Crowley’s memory is proof that politics represents truth and good will.”
–Council Member Walter McCaffrey
This playground is named for New York City Council Member Walter H. Crowley (1932-1985). Born on July 20, 1932 in Jackson Heights, Queens, Crowley attended St. Mary’s Catholic Grammar School, Grover Cleveland High School, and St. John’s University. Graduating from St. John’s University School of Law in 1957, Crowley served first in the National Guard for six months, and then with the United States Army Reserve from 1958 to 1964. He also served as a trustee of the City University of New York from 1976 to 1980.
In 1982, Crowley was elected Democratic Leader of the thirtieth district, and in 1984, he was chosen to be a delegate at the 1984 Democratic Convention. On January 9, 1985, another democratic politician, Thomas Manton, resigned from the City Council after he had been elected to the congressional seat vacated by Geraldine Ferraro when she ran for Vice President in 1984. Crowley was appointed to complete Manton’s term, and although he was only in office for a short time, Crowley served his district well. He started a 24-hour help hotline for constituents, protested with the parents of P.S. 91 students against the Board of Education’s use of bituminous coal, and led the fight against the proposed homeless shelters in Maspeth and Long Island City. In his short time in the City Council, Crowley earned respect and popularity with his ready smile and wit.
Outside his professional sphere, Crowley was also a member of many organizations: the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Queens County, the New York Bar Association, the Champlain Council of the Knights of Columbus, the Maspeth Democratic Club, and the Ancient Order of the Hibernians. He was married to his wife, Mary Childs Crowley, for decades and they had fifteen children, twelve daughters and three sons. In early September 1985, Crowley won a hard fought primary election for the Democratic nomination in the 21st District, but died on September 24, 1985 of cancer. His wife was later appointed to complete his term.
The City acquired the land that is now Crowley Playground by condemnation in two parcels, on December 29, 1953 and May 5, 1957. Both parcels were acquired as street land for the Queens-Midtown Expressway but were transferred to Parks to be used as parkland. Bounded by the Queens-Midtown Expressway, 57th Avenue, 82nd and 84th Streets, Crowley Playground serves as a recreational facility to the residents of Elmhurst, Queens. It is equipped with several basketball and handball courts, two jungle gyms, swings, benches, game tables, trees, a comfort station, a water fountain, and a yardarm that flies the American, City of New York, and Parks flags.
During the summer of 1985, the playground underwent a $6,000 rehabilitation through the Neighborhood Parks Restoration Program. New concrete pavements were installed, twenty-nine benches were repaired, the comfort station was renovated, and the trees and shrubs were pruned. On May 23, 1986, Parks Commissioner Stern hosted a ribbon-cutting dedication and renaming ceremony at Crowley Playground.