This playground is named after the Klein family farm that formerly occupied the land. In 1895, the Klein family purchased the land bounded by 73rd Avenue, 195th Street, and 196th Place, and moved from Brooklyn to Queens. The farm gradually expanded to include almost two hundred acres at its largest. In 1936, the family began selling parcels of land a few acres at a time, at prices ranging from $750 to $1,200 per acre. Among the buyers were the New York Life Insurance Company and the Roman Catholic Church.
Farm Playground is located in Fresh Meadows, Queens, which was settled in the late seventeenth century, soon after Flushing was established. Since then, it has become home to major housing developments. Until the mid-nineteenth century, Fresh Meadows and the adjacent Queens neighborhoods consisted of farmland. By the 1930s, however, modern technology and increased availability of foods from distant locations drove nearly all New York City farmers to sell their land and pursue other lifestyles. In 1943, The New York Times lamented, “Only fifty years ago, more than two thousand farms were scattered around the city. Today, as the greater city celebrates its semi-centennial, there is less land and more concrete under toe.”
While other farms failed, the Klein farm persisted, albeit in smaller form, at two of the original 200 acres. The family operated the smaller farm adjacent to the playground until February 2004, when the property was sold. Throughout its operation, the farm stand sold a wide variety of vegetables, including tomatoes, corn, beets, rhubarb and cucumbers, and various fresh juices. Some of the produce sold was grown in Fresh Meadows, while the rest was brought from the larger Klein farm in Melville, Long Island.
The New York Life Insurance Company, one of the original purchasers of the Klein farmland, donated the land that is now Farm Playground by deed of gift to the City of New York, on October 24, 1946. One year later, the City allotted $1,575,000 to construct a school on the adjacent land. The donated plot became the playground for the new school, and in November 1960, the Board of Education (now the Department of Education) and NYC Parks entered into an agreement to jointly maintain the playground.
Bound by 69th and 73rd Avenues, and 195th and 197th Streets, P.S. 26 Playground opened on February 23, 1967. It was originally equipped with basketball, volleyball, handball, shuffleboard, paddle-tennis, and horseshoe courts, a baseball diamond, a sandpit, swings, slides, a wading pool, and a comfort station. In 1995, modular play equipment and safety surfacing were installed at the site. The playground was renamed Farm Playground in 1999 in honor of the City’s last privately-owned operating farm. Today Farm Playground is a modern recreational facility with basketball and handball courts, though its name recalls the area’s rural past.