Fish Playground derives its name from the streets that bound it. F from Fulton Street, S from Saratoga Avenue, and H from Herkimer Street yield FSH. Given the added connection to the Fulton Fish Market, former Commissioner Henry J. Stern dubbed this parkland Fish Playground in 1998. Together, the park’s namesakes have a rich history.
Robert Fulton (1765-1815), the son of Irish immigrants, began his career as a jeweler’s apprentice in Philadelphia where he painted portraits on lockets and rings. After completing his apprenticeship, he became a gunsmith during the American Revolution. Returning to Philadelphia in 1782, Fulton resumed his painting career, specializing in landscapes and portraits, eventually travelling to London to study art in 1787. Seven years later, Fulton gave up painting and turned, unsuccessfully, to canal building. He then traveled to Paris in 1797 where he developed a submarine, the Nautilus, intended to place powder charges underneath ships. This vessel, being too slow, again brought failure to Fulton.
In 1801, Fulton met Robert R. Livingston (1746-1813) who owned the monopoly rights to steamboat usage on the Hudson. Still in Paris, the two combined forces to create a steamboat, and in 1806 Fulton arrived in New York and built the first steamboat to travel the Hudson. The boat, the fastest passenger ship of the time, became a success. Receiving major modifications in 1807, the ship was named the Clermont. Robert Fulton went on to create steamboats of many different styles, some with wheels on both sides of the hull, others with a wheel in the center of the two hulls. By 1810, Fulton’s boats sailed the waters of the Hudson and Raritan Rivers, in addition to the waters of Boston, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. Robert Fulton died in 1815, leaving his wife, Harriet Livingston (niece of Robert Livingston) and four children.
The Battles of Saratoga occurred in and around that town in 1777 between British General John Burgoyne (1722-1792) and Colonial General Horatio Gates (1728-1806). Burgoyne, after successfully capturing Forts Ticonderoga and Edward in July 1777, crossed the Hudson River and engaged General Gates’s Colonial Army on September 19, 1777. In the First Battle of Saratoga, the British retreated, unable to break through the Colonial lines and create a passage to Albany. Undaunted, General Burgoyne led 1,500 men on a reconnaissance mission on October 7, but met defeat at the hands of Colonial General Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) at the Second Battle of Saratoga. General Burgoyne attempted a retreat, but on October 17 found his 5,000-man army surrounded by General Gates’s 20,000 troops and surrendered. The Battle of Saratoga, considered the turning point of the Revolutionary War, convinced France of America’s power, encouraging France to give military aid to the colonies and support their fight for independence.
Nicholas Herkimer (1728-1777), born in Mohawk Valley, close to the present town of Herkimer, New York, served in the French and Indian War and received the title of Brigadier General in the New York Militia in 1776. General Herkimer and his men were ambushed on the night of August 6, near Oriskany, New York, during a 1777 attempt to relieve the Colonial troops besieged at Fort Stanwix. The ensuing Battle of Oriskany, a minor skirmish in the Battle of Saratoga, proved disastrous for Herkimer and his men. Herkimer suffered a leg wound and his men retreated. Herkimer died 10 days later in a failed attempt at amputation.
The City acquired this property from private owners in 1960, for the construction of Junior High School 271. Fish Playground, jointly operated by Parks and the Department of Education, opened in 1965 and features London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia), and one Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana). The playground, paved with asphalt and concrete, contains many benches, basketball courts, and handball courts. Modular play equipment with safety surfacing, two small seal animal art sculptures and two drinking fountains also adorn the park. In 1999, $303,000 in mayoral funding provided for the renovation of the handball courts, play equipment, and safety surfacing. In 2007, a $927,000 project renovated the playground's basketball courts.