This playground honors a life-long resident of New York City, and a 30-year resident of the near-by Williamsburg Houses, Thelma Martinez (1918-1987). Her extensive work in the neighborhood included a special commitment to this place, formerly known as Williamsburg Playground.
Born on July 25, 1918, Thelma Martinez was a paraprofessional assigned to assist teachers at P.S. 250 in Brooklyn. After the school day ended, with few available daycare facilities, Martinez often cared for children at her home or in a room at the Williamsburg Houses. She also served as Vice President of the Parent’s Association for J.H.S. 49 and the Williamsburg Houses Tenant Association. Through her association with J.H.S. 49, Martinez took an active role in this playground. By organizing youth activities in the park centering on sports, she provided safe and engaging opportunities for the neighborhood children. Dedicated to the maintenance of the playground, she organized cleanup days to keep the public space clean for everyone to enjoy.
On March 10, 1937 the City made an agreement with the federal government to have jurisdiction over the land for 20 years and to improve and maintain the premises. On October 10, 1957 the City, in agreement with the Housing Authority, leased the property to Parks to use for park and playground purposes. Located at Scholes Street, between Manhattan and Graham Avenues, this playground was known only as Williamsburg Housing Project until Parks changed it to Williamsburg Playground in 1987. Two years later, a local law renamed the park for Thelma Martinez.
Today, the playground has handball courts, basketball courts, and a comfort station as well as planted trees around the perimeter. The most recent renovations to the property were done in 1997 when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani provided $19,396 for renovations to the site’s chain-link fences, guide rails, and the street fences.