Highbridge Park

Quisqueya Playground

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

This playground’s name honors the large Dominican American community of the surrounding Washington Heights neighborhood. Quisqueya, meaning “cradle of life,” is one of two aboriginal names for the island called La Isla Española (Hispaniola) by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506).

The Dominican Republic shares the island with Haiti, meaning “land of mountains,” the other traditional name for Hispaniola. Although, in the 1950s, there were relatively few Dominicans in New York, between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s, more immigrants came to the City from the Dominican Republic than from any other country. Today, three-quarters of all of America’s Dominicans live in the New York region, and Washington Heights is the largest Dominican community in the City. The annual Dominican Day Parade, which takes place on the third Sunday of August, originated in 1981 in Washington Heights before moving to Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

Highbridge Park was assembled piecemeal between 1867 and the 1960s, with the bulk being acquired through condemnation from 1895 to 1901. The parcel that includes today’s Quisqueya Playground was acquired in 1890 and transferred to Parks jurisdiction in 1895. The old Highbridge Water Tower, constructed in 1872 and still one of Manhattan’s most picturesque landmarks, is visible from the southeast corner of the playground. Just to the north of Quisqueya, at 181st Street, is another city landmark, the Washington Bridge. Designed by Charles C. Schneider and Wilhelm Hildenbrand, it has linked Manhattan and the Bronx since 1889.

Quisqueya Playground opened in 1934. Within the site are several London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), popular in the park system due to their ability to withstand New York’s harsh soil and air conditions. The playground was refurbished in 1998 with $40,034 from Mayor Giuliani. The addition of new safety surfacing, play equipment, and a popular camel play sculpture added to the playground’s recreational facilities.

Directions to Highbridge Park

Know Before You Go

Recreation CentersHighbridge Recreation Center

As of June 14, 2021, Highbridge Recreation Center is open on a limited basis. Our recreation centers are currently only open to patrons with an active membership as of March 2020. We are not registering new members at this time.

ParkHighbridge Park

As a part of our Anchor Parks initiative, reconstruction of Highbridge Park is now underway. This project will reinstate access to a 10-block stretch of the park, improve connectivity and pathways, and restore the historic Grand Staircase at Laurel Hill Terrace. The project will also improve safety and security with new park lighting, and improve ADA access. Follow this project on the Parks Capital Tracker for updates.

Anticipated Completion: Summer 2020

ParkHighbridge Park

The Highbridge Park Water Tower is currently closed and undergoing reconstruction. Follow this project on the Parks Capital Tracker for updates.

Anticipated Completion: Spring 2021

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