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Gravesend Park

Vaccaro Playground

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

Located on 18th Avenue in the northwest corner of the 6.379-acre Gravesend Park, this playground honors the Borough Park community activists Joseph (1897-1974) and Dora Vaccaro (1904-1974). Both Joseph and Dora were educated in New York City public schools. They married on September 23, 1922, and seven years later moved to Borough Park, where they lived the rest of their lives.

During World War I, Joseph served in the United States Army Medical Corps in France. Following his return, he served as the Commander of the Milton Greisbach Post of the American Legion, and Dora served as President of the Post’s Ladies’ Auxiliary. During World War II, Joseph joined the Civil Defense Patrol, achieving the rank of captain. Dora worked as an air raid warden and volunteered with the American Red Cross, Kings County Chapter. In 1944, Dora became the co-leader of the State Committee, representing the Borough Park/Bensonhurst region. Serving until 1972, she worked with elected officials including Assemblyman Philip Shulper and Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden.

Dora’s activism also extended to the spiritual realm; she was president of the Holy Rosary Society of the Holy Ghost (now Holy Spirit) Church. Together, the couple was deeply involved in fund-raising activities for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, the Infants’ Home of Brooklyn, Kingsbrook Medical Center, the Boy Scouts of America, the 66th Precinct Community Council, and the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst. Mr. and Mrs. Vaccaro are survived by three children: the Honorable Frank Vaccaro (Supreme Court Justice), Marion Malapero, and Joseph Vaccaro, Jr.

Gravesend Park is bounded by 18th Avenue, 19th Avenue, 56th Street, and 58th Street. The City of Brooklyn acquired the property in October 1896. Two years later, the City of New York assumed control through the consolidation of the five boroughs. Originally, the Board of Estimate purchased the land for use by a disciplinary training school. Following the school’s closing in 1916, the Board of Estimate assigned the land to the Department of Street Cleaning. On June 7, 1917, Parks acquired jurisdiction over Gravesend Park. In 1938, Parks surrendered a small tract of land, adjacent to 19th Avenue to the Department of Sanitation. Forty-seven years later, Council Member Noach Dear introduced a local law naming this playground for the Vaccaros. Council Member Thomas J. Cuite co-sponsored it, and Mayor Edward I. Koch signed it into law in July of 1985.

In February 1996, Vaccaro Playground received a $53,000 renovation funded by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. The improvements included the installation of modern safety surfacing. Vaccaro Playground now features one full and two half basketball courts, four handball courts, assorted swings, spray showers, various modular play equipment, and climbing bars. Gravesend Park features tennis and boccie courts as well as baseball diamonds.

Directions to Gravesend Park

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Gravesend Park Weather

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