Herman Dolgon Playground
This playground, located on Avenue V between Batchelder Street and Nostrand Avenue, is named for local resident and World War II veteran Herman Dolgon (1917-1949). Dolgon, who was attached to the 569th Signal Company, fought in both France and Germany before contracting a serious disease that destroyed his intestinal tract. Following his stay at the Tilton General Hospital (a temporary facility located as an adjunct of Fort Dix, New Jersey), he was discharged on October 19, 1945, and returned home to Sheepshead Bay. Aghast at the shortage of suitable housing in the area for veterans, Dolgon became an activist, forming a council of local veterans’ posts to campaign for a veterans housing project in the Sheepshead Bay area. As chairman of the council, he was instrumental in obtaining wide support for this proposal. His tireless work on behalf of homeless veterans was credited with convincing the New York City Housing Authority to erect the Nostrand and Sheepshead Bay Houses in 1948. Unfortunately, Dolgon suffered a relapse of his wartime illness and died in Halloran Hospital in Staten Island on February 27, 1949, at the age of 31.
Dolgon Playground lies in the neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, named for the once popular Atlantic Sheepshead fish, a member of the large-headed porgy family. The Canarsee Indians, Sheepshead Bay’s original inhabitants, continued to live here largely undisturbed until almost 150 years after European settlers arrived in nearby Gravesend in 1643. In the eighteenth century, the Wyckoff and Lott families established homesteads and built farms in the area. Fishing became popular in the bay in the early 1800s, and little cottages soon dotted the rim of the inlet. Cool coastal breezes and fresh seafood, along with the opening of Ocean Avenue, began to lure tourists in the middle of the nineteenth century. In the 1870s, the subdivision of a large farm for development began a trend that led to the construction of over 400 houses by the end of the century. Before his imprisonment in Sing-Sing for election fraud in the 1890s, local political boss John McKane guided the development of Sheepshead Bay by encouraging the construction of New York rail lines to connect it to the rest of Brooklyn.
After the Coney Island Jockey Club, founded in 1880, opened the Sheepshead Bay Race Track, gamblers flocked to the area. The Sheepshead Speedway replaced the track when the Jockey Club disbanded in 1915. The famous $3.5 million automobile track was demolished in 1919 and replaced with housing. The city revitalized the neighborhood in the 1930s, with improvements such as the widening of Emmons Avenue and the modernization of buildings by the bay. In the 1950s, brick apartment buildings replaced the wooden houses, and by 1960, Sheepshead Bay was the fastest growing community in Brooklyn. Today, it is still a popular destination for recreational fishermen.
Parks acquired the land for Dolgon Playground during the construction of the Sheepshead Bay Houses in 1948, and the playground was named by local law in 1951. In April 1996, Mayor Giuliani funded a $110,000 renovation that installed new play equipment and safety surfacing. Former Council Member Anthony Weiner sponsored a $406,000 renovation, completed in January 1999, providing new equipment, new benches and paving and new sprinklers. Hippos, an elephant, a gorilla and a lion stand in the playground, creating their own cast-stone jungle, while zebras, gazelles and monkeys appear ready to leap out of a cast-iron fence. Young littleleaf linden trees, newly planted throughout the park, promise future shade.