Fresh Meadows Playground
Fresh Meadows Playground
Fresh Meadows Playground takes its name from the surrounding neighborhood, Fresh Meadows, and the freshwater springs that spouted water throughout the rolling landscape. In the colonial period the only two roads traversing this area were Fresh Meadow Lane, to the east of the playground, and Black Stump Road (today 73rd Avenue) so-named for the charred and blackened tree stumps that delineated property boundaries between the area’s many farms.
Following the consolidation of Queens into New York City in 1898, property developers looked towards Fresh Meadows as an opportunity to build new communities. In 1905, the Utopia Land Company planned to construct an expansive cooperative community for Jewish residents of the Lower East Side on fifty acres of land between 164th Street and Fresh Meadow Lane. Alongside residences, the plan included industries and a cooperative store. The roadways in Utopia were to be named after Lower East Side streets such as Ludlow, Division, Hester, and Essex. When the Utopia Land Company found itself unable to secure additional funding, the project was swiftly abandoned. While the dream of the development faded, the project’s name was remembered as the namesake for Utopia Parkway, the major north-south route through Fresh Meadows.
In the post-World War II period Fresh Meadows experienced rapid residential growth and there was need for a new neighborhood public school. On July 24, 1947 the city’s Board of Estimate proposed a new school on the site of nearby Utopia Playground. Citing the high cost and a buried pond beneath the existing playground, NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses opposed the idea and Utopia Playground was saved. Instead, Public School 173 was built a few blocks to the north with Fresh Meadows Playground serving as its schoolyard. The playground opened September 1, 1951 and officially transferred to NYC Parks in 1964. The site is jointly operated by NYC Parks and the Department of Education.
Fresh Meadows Playground currently features four handball courts, a comfort station, swings, a tree-lined seating area, a backstop and concrete baseball diamond, seven basketball hoops, and a spray shower to be enjoyed by residents of Fresh Meadows and its surrounding communities. The playground underwent renovations in 2011, adding new green spaces and sections for both passive and active recreation. The renovation also included the construction of Wall of Friendship and Respect, a student-painted tile mosaic at the center of the Children’s Garden.