Josephine Caminiti Playground
This playground is named for adjacent Alstyne Street; the reason for the street naming is unfortunately obscure. Before this parkland was renamed by Commissioner Stern, it was called Corona Playground, after the surrounding neighborhood of Corona.
Playgrounds emerged as crucial public facilities as population grew and the increasing demand for housing led to ever-dwindling recreational open spaces. From 1865 to 1895, New York City's population more than doubled. Thousands of new immigrants moved into already overcrowded tenement districts; most of these were families with children, many of whom worked long hours in factories. With the enactment of the first child labor laws at the turn of the 20th century, leading reformers in New York City lobbied for the creation of a new kind of small park for children -- the playground.
The earliest playgrounds, called "sand gardens," appeared in the 1880s. Furnished with innovative play equipment like see-saws, and staffed by trained recreation specialists, the playground was designed to be a "healthful influence upon morals and conduct." As Teddy Roosevelt, President of the Playground Association of America, wrote: "If we would have our citizens contented and law-abiding, we must not sow the seeds of discontent in childhood by denying children their birthright of play." For these reformers, recreation was not an end in itself: it was directly linked to the preservation of social morality.
Groups such as the New York Society for Parks and Playgrounds formed to raise awareness of the importance of play for children's health. The Society organized parades of mothers and babies, planned public meetings to demonstrate the use of the see-saw, and opened its own playground on Second Avenue and 91st Street. In 1903, the first municipally run playground in the United States, Seward Park, opened on the Lower East Side.
In the Depression-era, 1930s federal aid through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) enabled the City to greatly expand and improve its play spaces. Under the strict stewardship of Parks Commisioner Robert Moses (1888-1981), new playgrounds were constructed at an astonishing rate throughout the decade. Moses was able to harness the massive manpower of the Parks Department, whose ranks had swollen to more than 80,000 workers due primarily to the influx of federal money to stem unemployment through large public works projects. When Moses assumed the Commissionership in 1934, there were only 119 playgrounds in New York City. By the end of Moses’s reign at Parks in 1960, there were 777.
The City purchased this property from the Camager Corporation for $42,750, in April 1930 and immediately assigned the property to Parks. The playground was officially opened to the public in October 1934, and offered neighborhood residents a park with extensive landscaping, a comfort station, a jungle gym, swings, see-saws, and slides. One of the most significant features of the playground was its unusual roller-skating track, which followed the circumference of the property. There was a comfort station complete with mother’s room, director’s room, and an indoor playroom, which enabled children to enjoy the park even in inclement weather.
The playground has recently undergone extensive renovations. Between 1998 and 1999, a $325,000 contribution from Council Member Helen M. Marshall funded the park’s reconstruction. Now, visitors may enjoy the park’s colorful jungle gym, decorated with horses and clown figures, and play area made child-friendly by safety surfacing. For parents, a large comfort station and a plethora of shaded benches and picnic tables make Alstyne Playground an asset to the Corona community.