Cypress Hills Playground
Cypress Hills Playground
This playground, housing development, and neighborhood share their name with the federal cemetery that lies nearby, at 833 Jamaica Avenue. Originally inhabited by Canarsee Indians, Cypress Hills was first settled in the early 18th century by Dutch, French and English farmers, and the African slaves they brought with them. The area remained largely rural until the completion of the wooden Jamaica Plank Road (now Jamaica Avenue) in 1807. In 1821, the construction of the Union Course racetrack just over the line in Queens drew settlers rapidly to northern Brooklyn, and shops and hotels quickly sprang up to accommodate visitors and residents alike.
In the 1820s, the neighborhood was known as Unionville, or Union Course, after the racetrack. In later years, as residential development continued and the cemeteries were built, the name changed gradually to Cypress Hills. It is unclear whether the neighborhood was named for the cemetery or vice versa, but both take their name in effect from the cypress trees, probably white cedars (thuja occidentalis), that characterized the neighborhood at that time.
In 1892, this tract of Cypress Hills land, upon which the current playground is located, was acquired by the City for the Department of Water, Gas and Electricity. It was transferred to Parks in 1929. An area roughly the size of the current park was developed, upgraded, and opened to the public as a baseball field in 1935. A swimming pool was also planned for the site, but never realized. In 1951, the City Planning Commission and the New York City Housing Authority set aside $75,000 for the renovation of the park. Redesigned and named to serve the needs of the new Cypress Hills Housing Development in construction around it, the Cypress Hills playground reopened in 1958.
The playground is divided into two parts: a large grassy baseball field and a play area at the front facing Euclid Avenue. The field has two baseball diamonds and a set of bleachers. The play area includes handball and basketball courts, swings, adventure play equipment, two sitting areas with benches and tables, a comfort station, a flagpole and yardarm, and water fountains.
In 1999, the playground underwent a $73,000 renovation, funded by Mayor Giuliani, which included the installation of new handball courts and two new play structures with safety surfacing, one geared specifically toward younger children.