De Matti Park

Nicholas De Matti Playground

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

De Matti Park is one of nine playgrounds that NYC Parks built through a war memorial fund.  They opened simultaneously on July 15, 1934. Nicholas De Matti was a Private, First Class, in Company K, 310th Infantry, 78th Division, and a Staten Island native.  He died in action in the Mihiel Sector at St. North Thiaucourt, France on September 26, 1918, less than two months before the end of World War I (1914-1918).

In 1918, the War Memorial Fund was established to create a $1 million Memorial Arch to commemorate those killed in World War I. The organizers were forced to adjust their plans when they were only able to raise $210,000, and by 1922 the project was scrapped and the money was turned over to the City. The fund earned interest, growing to nearly $340,000 by 1934.  Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888–1981), wishing to construct playspaces for children, convinced the remaining members of the War Memorial Committee to allow the funds to be used for playgrounds.

NYC Parks received the War Memorial Fund on March 19, 1934, and, with additional funding from the Federal Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, the nine playgrounds were constructed in less than four months. Each was equipped with a play area, wading pool, brick field house and comfort station, and flagpole. The legal decision that paved the way for NYC Parks to build playgrounds stipulated that each property be dedicated as a war memorial and contain bronze tablets commemorating fallen soldiers.  he nine War Memorial Playgrounds are scattered throughout the City; two are in Manhattan, two in Queens, two in Staten Island, two in the Bronx, and one in Brooklyn. The other War Memorial Playground on Staten Island is Austin J. McDonald Park, on Forest Avenue. The soldiers honored in the dedicated playgrounds were selected by various veterans’ organizations. This playground is located in the Rosebank section of Staten Island where De Matti lived.

The dedication of the War Memorial Playgrounds occasioned an official ceremony led by Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947) and Commissioner Moses at William E. Sheridan Playground in Brooklyn. It was simultaneously broadcast to all the other playgrounds through an elaborate public address system. 

In 1970, NYC Parks remodeled this park’s recreation center and installed a new basketball court and ballfield. At that time, its wading pool was relocated to MacArthur Park on Dongan Hills Avenue. The park’s safety surfacing was replaced in June 1995 and in 1997 the sidewalks, paths, and pavements were renovated. 

This site is part of Parks' Community Parks Initiative—a multi-faceted program to invest in under-resourced public parks and increase the accessibility and quality of parks throughout the five boroughs. Re-opened in 2018, DeMatti Park features new spray showers, an adult fitness area, bocce ball courts, a redesigned landscape with more green space, and accessibility in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This initiative ensures that the park remains an enjoyable neighborhood amenity for Staten Island families for years to come.

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