Mae Grant Playground
Mae Grant Park
This park is named for Mae Grant, a local activist and tenant of the Carver houses. Mae Grant served as president of the tenant association from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. She is best remembered for her giving spirit and fairness.
She served tenants and community members in many ways beyond in her official capacity as tenant association president. People turned to her for help in finding and securing apartments and jobs. Grant established a community food program to assist the less fortunate in the community. In addition to the volunteer work she did, she was also instrumental in bringing entertainment to the Heckscher Theater at El Museo Del Barrio.
The park is located at the center of the Carver Houses, a housing development named for George Washington Carver (c.1860-1943). The Carver Houses are one of the New York City Housing Authority’s complexes that also provides services to the community, such as mental health counseling and child care. Carver, the project's namesake was an agricultural scientist, inventor, and educator. A freed slave who earned a Master's Degree from the University of Iowa, Carver conducted research at the Tuskegee Institute. He refined crop rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered hundreds of new uses for crops, such as the peanut. In so doing, Carver met his personal goal of helping African Americans and creating new markets for all farmers, especially in the South.
The Carver Houses, located in East Harlem, are surrounded by many outstanding cultural and recreational institutions, such as El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Conservatory Garden and Harlem Meer in Central Park. El Museo del Barrio was founded in 1969 by local parents who wanted to capture Puerto Rican heritage for their children growing up in the modern East Harlem environment. Now it hosts traditional and contemporary artwork from all over Latin America, as well as film, theater, and music events.
This park, located between Madison and Park Avenues on the North side of 104th Street, was acquired by condemnation on February 1, 1951. The park was planned, mapped, and built from February to May of 1953. In late 1958, the park was closed in order to widen 104th Street, and was reopened in February of 1959 when the project was completed. In 1994, the park was renovated with $482,000 in funding from Council Member Adam Clayton Powell. This latest renovation added two colorful metal and plastic play structures, a new set of swings specifically for younger children and a refurbished sprinkler tower with new casing for the water facilities. All the play equipment, including the swings, was outfitted with safety surfacing. Picnic tables were also added, and they sit in the shade of London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), which are scattered in and around the park. For older children and adults, the park is equipped with an enclosed basketball court and a double-sided handball court.
Like the giving spirit of Mae Grant, the park that bears her name continues to give to the community. It provides essential recreational facilities for the housing projects and all nearby residents.