What was here before?
Prior to the arrival of European settlers in the 17th century, the Rockaway peninsula was inhabited by the Canarsie tribe. Deriving from the language of the Delaware and Chippewa Native Americans, the names “Reckonwacky,” meaning “the place of our own people,” and “Reckanawahaha,” meaning “the place of laughing waters,” are both recognized as the area’s indigenous names. These terms later became the present name following European colonization. Other interpretations include “lekau,” meaning sand, and “lechauwaak,” for fork or branch, also reflect the historic and geographic traits of the peninsula.
The Canarsie Tribe sold the mostly barren land to Captain John Palmer, an Englishman, with a deed granted by then Governor Thomas Dongan in 1685. Disappointed with his purchase, Palmer sold the land in 1687 to a prominent ironmaster from Long Island, Richard Cornell.
After a partition suit divided the Cornell plot in 1808, the parcels were sold to several parties, notably the Rockaway Association, which began building exclusive seaside resorts in 1833. During the 1890s, amusement parks rivaling the popular Coney Island were built. In 1898, the Village of Rockaway Park was incorporated into New York City.
In an effort to make the Rockaway peninsula more accessible to people from all over New York, many access options were created beginning with the completion of the Cross Bay Bridge in 1925, Marine Parkway in 1937, and improvement of the area’s subway system in 1941. Since the end of World War II (1939-1945), the area has become a largely residential community.
How did this site become a playground?
In 1958, the City built Public School 197 along with Lanett Playground as a Jointly Operated Playground (JOP) serving the school and local community. Beginning in 1938, the Board of Education (now the Department of Education) agreed to provide land next to schools where NYC Parks could build and maintain playgrounds that could be used by the school during the day and by the public when school is not in session.
The playground was renovated in 2014 in a project that provided a new comfort station, benches, safety surfacing, decorative paving, a reconstructed basketball court, play equipment, and a rain garden that diverts runoff from sewers through natural means. The playground’s sitting area was renovated in 2021 with improved lighting, seating, and landscaping.
What is this playground named for?
This playground takes its name from Lanett Avenue, a quiet residential thoroughfare in the southeastern corner of Far Rockaway.