Heckscher Playground

The Daily Plant : Thursday, July 19, 2001


Thirty years ago the 0.3 acres that is now Unity Park was a vacant lot. Today, it is more than a park. It is a magnet for neighborhood activity. In the intervening years, local nonprofits claimed the land as their own and developed it. In the last three years, Parks and elected officials have sought to cultivate existing enthusiasm, acquire the land for Parks, and add institutional resources to make it even better. This year, Council Member Wendell (Reverend) Foster allocated $898,000 for a reconstruction that will strengthen the park's attractive powers. On Tuesday, July 10, with the muscle of esteemed guests, Parks broke ground to realize Landscape Architect Dorothy Bothwell's design.

Bothwell outlined a plan that tells the history of the park in visual detail and leaves generous space for greenthumbs from Unity Church. The theme of her design is "the lost rivers of the Bronx." A large, paved map identifies extinct rivers like Tibbets Brook, Barretts Creek, and Black Dog Brook-that ran through the Bronx until they were covered in concrete and highways built over them. When the rebuilding of Unity Park is complete, a 20-foot fountain will bring water back to the land and the pavement will feature images of fish that might have swum in the lost waters. Previously, a stage was established and performed upon in the park. This function will be preserved in a grassy platform and a seating area designed like an amphitheater. A plot has been set aside for community gardeners, and a new botanical garden study will be planted with River birch, Joe pie weed, ferns, junipers, and other plants that grow along the water's edge. New benches, game tables, fences, lighting, and ramps will round out the uses of the park.

On the day of the groundbreaking, Council Member Foster and Commissioner Henry J. (StarQuest) Stern were among those who addressed a crowd of old and young guests. Neighborhood gardeners parted at the end of the ceremony, looking forward to reuniting in a completed Unity Park next year.


On June 12, The Daily Plant ran an account of Parks' "Second Annual Handball Tournament." At the request of one of our avid readers, Jonathan (Archive) Kuhn, we took a deeper look into the history of citywide handball tournaments. The archives, searched by Scott (Canyon) Sendrow, revealed that Parks held citywide handball tournaments at least as far back as 1948 when the "first annual Horse-shoe Pitching and Handball Tournaments," were played most likely at Heckscher Playground on 63rd Street and the West Drive in Central Park. This event was held every year for the next twelve years in the middle of October. Gold watches were presented to the city champions, and medals to district and borough finalists.

Depictions of hand-played ball games date back to Egyptian tombs from 2000 B.C. Images from roughly 1500 B.C., have been found in Arizona and Nicaragua. Homer's Odyssey describes a handball game invented by Anagalla, Princess of Sparta. Probably, American handball descends from these activities. It is one of the most popular park games in New York City, made even more attractive by our current effort to refurbish our more than 2,000 courts over a four-year period.

By Andrew (Chevre) Gray


Last week, Parks softball players returned from a holiday break to play with renewed enthusiasm. On Monday, July 9 Manhattan faced UPS, and the hard-hitting Manhattan walked away with the 18-6 victory. Close by, Bronx took home a decisive 15-3 win against Central Park.

Tuesday, the Arsenal hosted the Mayor's Office of Operations (MOO) in an exhibition game. While the contest stayed close in the early innings, after seven, the Arsenal earned inter-agency bragging rights with a 14-7 victory. Wednesday's games were close ones. Queens held on to their undefeated record with a 7-5 win over Brooklyn, and Arsenal West enjoyed their first taste of victory with a 13-12 win against the Zoo.

Here is how it stands after Week Four: Bronx 4-0, Queens 4-0, Manhattan 2-1, Central Park 2-2, Brooklyn 1-2, UPS 1-2, Arsenal West 1-3, Zoo 1-3, and Arsenal 0-3.

By Sarah (Cria) Coleman

(Thursday, July 21, 1988)

Parks' drive to increase the care and maintenance of its 1,654-fleet shifted into high gear yesterday when the Department officially opened the just-completed $10-million, Five Borough Garage and Shops housing the main auto repair shops and offices for Technical Services.

With a parade of Parks vehicles, heralded by a fanfare by Metropolitan Opera trumpeter Dan Batchelder, Commissioner Stern and hundreds of parkies and guests dedicated the facility. The ribbon was "cut" by the Commissioner's car as it emerged from the undercarriage car wash.


"They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon."

Edward Lear (1812-1888)

Directions to Heckscher Playground

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