East River Playground

East River Playground

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

What was here before?

Now known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, the East Harlem neighborhood was settled in the late 19th century and quickly became home to a large population of Italian immigrants. By the mid-20th century the neighborhood boasted a large Puerto Rican population which remains today, along with more recent influxes of other Latinx immigrants.

From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, the area around First Avenue and the waterfront was populated by warehouses and commercial buildings. This site was formerly occupied by commercial and warehouse buildings that were condemned in 1961.

How did this site become a playground?

This site was transferred to the City of New York in 1962 and earmarked for use as a playground. East River Playground opened in 1968 and is the second in Manhattan to be named East River Playground, the first being in John V. Lindsay East River Park. The original playground was designed by Irving Levine and Bertram Blumberg with Clara Coffey and incorporated play equipment for young children, a recreation building, an adult sitting area, various ball courts, shuffleboard and a roller skating area.

The property is a Jointly Operated Playground (JOP) serving P.S. 146 Anna M. Short School and the local community. Beginning in 1938, the Board of Education agreed to provide land next to schools where the Parks Department could build and maintain playgrounds that could be used by the school during the day and the public on evenings and weekends.

What is this playground named for?

This playground is named for the nearby East River, on the opposite side of the FDR Drive. The East River is a saltwater tidal estuary connecting New York Harbor to the Long Island Sound and has played a crucial role in defense, trade and settlement of the island of Manhattan.

Park Information

Directions to East River Playground

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