This playground is named for its location on East First Street and First Avenue. It first opened in 1935, and was a typical product of the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) initiative to create recreational areas in the City. Following a period of neglect, this park was reclaimed by a series of neighborhood organizations working with City officials to once again provide a welcome respite from the surrounding traffic.
From 1865 to 1895, as the population of the city doubled and children increasingly teemed on the streets, leading reformers lobbied for the creation of a new kind of small park for children –the playground. The earliest playgrounds in New York City, called "sand gardens," appeared in the 1880s on the grounds of settlement houses. Furnished with innovative play equipment such as seesaws, and staffed by trained recreation specialists, the playground was designed to be a "healthful influence upon morals and conduct."