Hot Spot Tot Lot

Hot Spot Tot Lot

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

“Tot lot” is a Parks expression used to describe a space used for the recreational purposes of small children. This particular one lies directly across the street from the Brooklyn College Football field, a “hot spot” for students. The park takes its name from a fusion of these two ideas.

In 1910, Brooklyn College opened as an extension of the City College for Teachers. The school expanded in 1917 in order to provide classes for any male who received a high school diploma. The college expanded again into rented space in the downtown business district of Brooklyn in 1926 and received accreditation as a two year institution. The Board of Higher Education authorized the school to become a co-ed four year institution in 1930. At the same time Brooklyn College became the first co-educational college in New York City.

With burgeoning enrollment, the school sought more space, and in 1935 Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia broke ground on a new campus facility located in residential Midwood, Brooklyn. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the new facility. The Georgian-style campus, which the school still occupies, was completed in 1937.

In addition to the school’s reputable core curriculum and esteemed staff, the college’s football field has the unique distinction of providing a home to a large population of wild South American Monk “Quaker” Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus). The birds arrived in 1968, after escaping the cargo plane that carried them from Argentina to John F. Kennedy Airport.

After escaping from Kennedy Airport, the parakeets settled in the electrical wires and floodlights above the adjacent field. The birds proved hearty, adaptable, and prolific, and their numbers rose steadily over the years. Although some assumed that the birds built their stick nests in the wires and lights to take advantage of the radiating heat, studies show this is not the case. Although the warmth does help, the climate of the birds’ native habitat of Argentina is very similar to New York City’s seasonal cycle, and therefore their fickle nesting choice remains a mystery.

Although the birds are often referred to as parrots, they are in fact part of the diminutive, familial relative of the parrot, the parakeet. The birds measure 11-12 inches in length, and are naturally green in color, but variations of coloring can be seen too, such as blue, yellow, and albino. These highly intelligent birds can learn many words and are often heard “practicing” their pronunciation.

This playground, located at the intersection of Campus Road, East 21st Street and Avenue H, contains many benches and trees. In 1997, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani funded $16,485 toward the installation of safety surfacing around the play equipment. A complete reconstruction of the playground was completed in 2000, with $537,000 in funding from Borough President Howard Golden. Red and green play equipment was installed, as well as a drinking fountain, lampposts, a shower basin, and tot swings. Belgian paving stones cover the ground and a wrought iron fence, featuring bird animal art in tribute to the nearby Monk parakeet population, bounds the lot.

Park Information

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