What was here before?
This site was formerly occupied by several frame dwellings, which were razed to construct this playground.
How did this site become a playground?
The City acquired the land for the playground over a 53-year period from 1936 to 1989. A 1994 renovation further enlarged the playground by nearly 1.5 acres. This playground is a Jointly Operated Playground (JOP) serving JHS 292 Margaret S. Douglas and the local community. Beginning in 1938, the Board of Education (now the Department of Education) agreed to provide land next to schools where NYC Parks could build and maintain playgrounds that could be used by the school during the day and by the public when school is not in session. The playground was previously named for African-American educator Margaret Smith Douglas (1901-1967), the granddaughter of an enslaved woman who rose through the public school system to become the first woman Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum of the Board of Education. The adjoining school is still named for Douglas.
Capital projects in 2003 and 2004 improved the ball field and drainage system and restored the park fences. In 2022, the playground was rebuilt, including new play equipment, safety surfacing, spray shower, fencing, and utilities.
Who is this playground named for?
In 1997, this playground was renamed to honor three members of the Grace Baptist Church of Christ and the East New York community: Deacon Major Cunningham and the sisters Dorothy Lee Corley Jacobs and Shirley Corley Justice.
Deacon Major Cunningham (1924-1994) was born in Honea Path, South Carolina and made his home in Brooklyn. He was a charter member of the Grace Baptist Church of Christ and served as First Chairman of the Board of Deacons and Assistant School Teacher to the adult class. Like Deacon Cunningham, Dorothy and Shirley were both from South Carolina.
Dorothy “Dot” Corley Jacobs (1929-1993) joined the Grace Church in 1966. She devoted her life to caring for both the children of her own family and those of the extended family she developed through her work at the East New York Family Day Care Center and at Saint Vincent’s Foster Care Agency.
Shirley Corley Justice (1932-1987) was also committed to improving children’s lives. She took part in the Foster Care and the Provider Mother Programs. She received awards for her work from the Agency for Child Development and a Women’s Service Recognition Award from the 24th District of East New York. On August 23, 1997, the City Council named the playground “Grace Playground” after the Church for which the three worked.