Mariners Harbor Playground
Mariners Harbor Playground
What was here before?
Erastus Wiman (1834-1904), a prominent Staten Island businessman, first developed this area of Mariners Harbor in the late 1880s as an entertainment center that concentrated on a new rail station, which he called Erastina. A Churchville, Ontario native, Wiman moved to Staten Island in 1864 when he transferred to the New York branch of the Montreal commercial reporting firm, R.G. Dun & Co. Wiman’s desire to make Staten Island as prosperous and accessible as its near neighbors had a significant impact on local development.
He was influential in the consolidation of Staten Island’s railway and transit lines, the negotiations for a connection between the new Staten Island Railway and the Baltimore & Ohio, and the creation of a central hub at St. George. Wiman, who also named St. George after his associate George Law, operated casinos and staged shows to increase the popularity of the Erastina area. Among the most popular were Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which visited in 1886 on its return from Europe, Forepaugh’s Circus, and local baseball games. These shows drew thousands of revelers to Staten Island. A few years later, as the maritime industry increased in the neighborhood, it began to be called by its present name, Mariners Harbor.
Until the early 20th century, the local economy of Richmond Terrace was dominated by Brewer’s Dry Dock and the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard. During World War II, Bethlehem workers produced a significant percentage of the aircraft used by the U.S. Navy. Between 1942 to 1944, the shipyard provided one-tenth of the Navy’s destroyer planes and 75 landing craft. The company closed in 1958.
How did this site become a playground?
The City acquired this site from the Sinking Fund (now a defunct government body) in August 1912. Fourteen years later, the City transferred the property to Parks. It opened as Mariner’s Harbor Playground on December 10, 1934 with a basketball and volleyball court, a playground, and a spray shower. The site name changed several times over the years, to Mariner’s Playground in 1996 and to Harbor Playground in 1997, before its original name was reinstated.
This site was improved through Parks' Community Parks Initiative, a multi-faceted program to invest in under-resourced public parks and increase the accessibility and quality of parks throughout the five boroughs. In 2021, this project constructed new amenities such as multigenerational play areas, an adult fitness section, and a basketball court.
What is this playground named for?
This playground takes its name from the neighborhood of Mariner’s Harbor, once a home for both active and retired sailors and their families. This neighborhood of quiet streets still has many of the homes built by these seamen, and Van Name, DeHart, and Van Pelt Avenues all bear the names of early area residents. Many of the first homes were built on a stretch of Richmond Terrace then known as “Captains’ Row.”