Despite the trains running overhead, Elton Playground is a quiet neighborhood park with simple but well-laid-out recreational facilities for a variety of tastes. Located on Elton Street between New Lots and Hegeman Avenues, the playground shares the property, which actually belongs to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, with Linwood Playground, on the other side of the tracks. Tall sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) line the boundary between the parks, and London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), planted in 1986, will grow to meet them in the years to come, shading the sidewalk benches.
To the Dutch settlers who first laid out village streets in the area, it was known as Ostwout, meaning “east woods.” In the 1670s, English farmers also began to settle the area, intermingling with the Dutch and giving the land the name New Lots. The area remained primarily rural until 1835, when John Pitkin, a merchant from Connecticut, bought the Ostwout land north of New Lots Avenue and named it East New York, a marketing effort intended to suggest a connection with Manhattan, to the west.
Elton Playground received a $610,000 restoration in the mid-1980s and reopened on May 6, 1986. Trees, toddler swings, picnic tables, benches, handball courts, and water fountains make the park a clean, safe place for neighborhood residents, who contribute to its upkeep. On the night before the park was reopened, one longtime resident watched from her nearby home with floodlight and camera until three in the morning in order to ensure that the park would be graffiti-free and in perfect condition for the morning’s ribbon-cutting. In recent years, residents of East New York have taken the improvement and maintenance of the community into their own hands. The excellent condition of Elton Playground is a testament to their spirit.