This playground is named in honor of Reinhard E. Kaltenmeier (1876-1933), who hailed from Rosebank, Staten Island and ascended the ranks of city politics. This land functioned as a park for 14 years before coming under NYC Parks’ jurisdiction.
Known as Rosebank Park in 1925, the State of New York owned the property and NYC Parks had a permit to operate the parcel. The city acquired the land from the State on January 21, 1934, and the Board of Aldermen re-named it Reinhard E. Kaltenmeier Playground in 1936. The city transferred the property to NYC Parks in 1938, and after construction of a playground, it re-opened on March 28 of that year. A bronze tablet, on a pressed concrete plinth, lies near the Virginia Avenue entrance in memory of Kaltenmeier.
Reinhard Kaltenmeier attended St. Mary’s Parochial School, on the corner of this block, and then public school until age 14. His home, which also functioned as his father’s saloon and hotel, stood just a block away at 53 St. Mary’s Avenue. In a shop behind the house he learned the trade of goldbeating, and continued making gold leaf for five years, while helping out in the saloon. On December 19, 1896, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Doyle, who also lived in Rosebank.
By 1902, Kaltenmeier had taken interest in politics and became the captain of the second district’s Democratic Party. The family grew, as Mary bore four children by 1904: Marguerite, May, Reinhard Jr., and Rose. Mary died in January 1909, and Kaltenmeier continued raising his family, running the saloon, and pursuing his political career. At the same time, he began selling insurance, and through the 1910s and 1920s, he rose to become a prominent insurance salesman. Kaltenmeier continued managing the saloon until 1920 when prohibition closed the business.
Good luck in politics followed bad luck in business. In 1921, he was elected to the Board of Aldermen (predecessor of the City Council), and was re-elected five times. Kaltenmeier’s tenure in public office was tempered by the loss of two of his children. His 24-year-old son, Reinhard Jr., died in December 1924, and within eight months, his youngest daughter, Rose, died at age 20. That year he moved out of his life-long residence on St. Mary’s Avenue.
Aside from serving his constituents, Kaltenmeier belonged to more than a dozen clubs and societies including the Staten Island Lodge, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Catholic Benevolent Legion, and the Veteran’s Bureau Association. After a decade on the Board of Aldermen, Kaltenmeier became the Sheriff of Richmond County, but for most of his two-and-a-half years as Sheriff, he was ill. He died in his home, at 33 Virginia Avenue, on the evening of June 4, 1933. Notice of his death made a banner headline across the Staten Island Advance the next morning. His friends remembered him in an extensive obituary as “a marvelous official,” and “the father confessor of everyone who went to him for advice and help.”