Grassmere Playground

Grassmere Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground is located at the intersection of Grassmere Terrace, Brookhaven Avenue, and Briar Place in Rockaway, Queens. NYC Parks acquired the land in 1955 in conjunction with the Board of Education (now the Department of Education). The adjacent school, P.S. 215, is named for Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), who advocated woman’s rights and fought to end slavery. Parks Commissioner Stern named the property Grassmere Playground in 1985. 

This playground takes its name from the adjacent Grassmere Terrace housing complex.  Playgrounds have a long and storied history in New York City. From 1865 to 1895, New York City's population more than doubled. As thousands of new immigrants moved into already overcrowded tenement districts, the streets teemed with children, many of whom worked long hours in factories. With the enactment of the first child labor laws at the turn of the 20th century, leading reformers in New York City lobbied for the creation of a new kind of small park for children—the playground.

The earliest playgrounds, called "sand gardens," appeared in the 1880s on the grounds of settlement houses. Furnished with innovative play equipment like see-saws, and staffed by trained recreation specialists, the playground was designed to be a "healthful influence upon morals and conduct." 

Groups such as the New York Society for Parks and Playgrounds formed to raise awareness of the importance of play for children's health. The Society organized parades of mothers and babies, planned public meetings to demonstrate the use of the see-saw, and opened its own playground on Second Avenue and 91st Street. In 1903, the first municipally-run playground in the United States, Seward Park, opened on the Lower East Side.

In the Depression era 1930s, federal aid through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) enabled the City to expand and improve its play spaces. Under the stewardship of Parks Commisioner Robert Moses, new playgrounds were constructed at an astonishing rate throughout the decade. Moses increased the number of playgrounds in New York City from 119 when he became Commissioner in 1934 to 777 in 1960, the end of the Moses era at the Parks Department.

This site is part of Parks' Community Parks Initiative—a multi-faceted program to invest in under-resourced public parks and increase the accessibility and quality of parks throughout the five boroughs. The reconstruction, completed in 2018, included two new play areas (for kids aged 2 to 5, and 5 to 12), a 100-meter track and junior soccer field, an educational wooded trail, an outdoor classroom, a junior basketball court, adult fitness equipment, a children’s water play area, and improved planting, seating, and lighting. New green infrastructure elements were also added to the park, which will aid in capturing storm water.

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Directions to Grassmere Playground

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