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Gravesend Park

Gravesend Park

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

The origin of this park’s name is somewhat unclear. There are two possibilities. The name might have been chosen due to the site’s proximity to Washington Cemetery. In this sense it would literally imply that the park is at the grave’s end. It is also possible that this property is somehow named for the neighborhood of Gravesend, which today lies more than a mile to the south, or for Gravesend Avenue, present-day McDonald Avenue.

Gravesend was the first English settlement in New York. Founded by Lady Deborah Moody (c.1583-1659) in 1645, the solitary English town developed an air of self-sufficiency that lasted until 1894 when it was finally annexed by the City of Brooklyn. Over the centuries, Gravesend grew in importance and size. A map dating to 1850 indicates that this property was within the Gravesend town line. By 1890, however, it clearly belonged to New Utrecht. Gravesend Avenue was a key route though Kings County, connecting the City of Brooklyn, and all towns on its way, to Gravesend. In 1933, the thoroughfare was renamed to honor an Alderman (equivalent to a Council Member) who had died as a result of swallowing a chicken bone.

The City of Brooklyn first acquired this parcel in 1896 for construction of a disciplinary training school. The school closed in 1916 and parks acquired the property in 1917. Only 23 years had passed since Gravesend was its own town. McDonald Avenue, which lies a few blocks to the east, was still known as Gravesend Avenue, and parks were often named for nearby, major streets. While it is difficult to say absolutely, it seems likely that this park was named to honor Gravesend.

Today, Gravesend Park is located in the Mapleton area of Borough Park. The neighborhood of Borough Park grew out of colonial New Utrecht, which, like its neighboring Gravesend, was one of the six original Brooklyn townships. The community of Borough Park was founded in 1902 when New York State Senator William H. Reynolds (1868-1931) purchased a tract and subdivided the area into lots for development (Reynolds also later pursued the development of the Dreamland Amusement Park in Coney Island). In 1904, the first synagogue was built in Borough Park. By 1910 large numbers of Russian Jews had relocated from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Brooklyn’s Borough Park.

Following World War I (1914-1918), improvements in transportation, such as the elevation of the New Utrecht Avenue train line, prompted the neighborhood’s growth. Developers built several low-rise apartment buildings to accommodate the rapid influx of new residents. During the early 1930s, about half of Borough Park’s residents were Jewish, while the other half consisted largely of Irish and Italians. During the late 1950s, the area drew Hasidic Jews from Crown Heights and Williamsburg, who had been displaced by the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and Hungarian Jews who immigrated after the 1956 revolution.

In 1995, Gravesend Park received a $53,000 capital requirements contract renovation sponsored by Mayor Giuliani. The rehabilitation included the installation of modern safety surfacing. Today, the park features tennis courts, a baseball field, game tables, a comfort station, play equipment, a full basketball court, four handball courts, benches, and swings. In 2001, a $550,000 capital renovation will be completed. Sponsored by Council Member Noach Dear, this renovation includes the demolition of tennis courts and the construction of a fully equipped, modern roller hockey rink.

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