Dr. Green Playground
Dr. Richard Green Playground
This playground honors New York City’s first African American Chancellor of the Board of Education, Dr. Richard Green (1936-1989). Dr. Green received his appointment from Mayor Edward I. Koch in March 1988 and died of a severe asthma attack in the early morning of May 10, 1989.
Born in Arkansas, Green’s parents separated before he was two years of age. His mother took him and his two siblings to Minneapolis, Minnesota. An athletic child with a football player’s build, he excelled on the football field and the basketball court. Sports provided Green an opportunity for higher education and he attended Augsburg College, a Lutheran school in the Minneapolis area. After college, Green went on to coach high school football and serve as assistant principal at North Community High School in Minneapolis. In 1970, a few years into his tenure as coach and assistant principal, leading community members began raising funds to pay for his doctoral studies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. After spending several more years at North Community High School, Green became school superintendent of Minneapolis in 1980.
Dr. Richard Green arrived in New York in January 1988; his installation as Chancellor of the Board of Education occurred in March of that year. He served the Board of Education for fourteen months in which he strove to improve the quality of education. Dr. Green cited his four main objectives as Chancellor: creating a legislative package to fund new schools, reforming the election process for community school board members, giving teachers more say in the decision making process, and making schools more safe and effective. Dr. Green adamantly believed, “We need to make children the center of our culture.”
At 1:40 in the morning, May 10, 1989, Dr. Green suffered a massive asthma attack in his home. His wife Gwendolyn called an ambulance, and paramedics transported him to Roosevelt Hospital where he arrived at 2:30 A.M. and died after doctors’ failed attempts to revive him. The 51 year-old Chancellor left his wife and daughter. Mayor Edward I. Koch said Dr. Green, “created a spirit that was very special.”
Dr. Richard Green Playground is a jointly operated playground of Parks and the Board of Education. Shared with P.S. 284, the property served as a parking lot for teachers until 1960 when it was converted into P.S. 284 Playground. Parks Commissioner Stern subsequently changed its name to Ben Hur Playground in 1985, because the school’s namesake, Lou Wallace (1827-1905), penned the famous novel of that name. The playground’s name was again changed in 1989 to honor the late Chancellor Green.
The playground, lined with London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), offers many shady benches, four game tables, two drinking fountains, a flagpole with a yardarm, and many lampposts. Recreational facilities include a handball wall, basketball courts, adventure and timber style playgrounds, and a hippopotamus animal art sculpture.