McCaffrey Playground

The Daily Plant : Monday, May 20, 2002


There was a lot of sun (and even more fun) last Thursday at McCaffrey Playground in Hell’s Kitchen. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe welcomed Community Board 4 Chair Simone Sindin, Holy Cross School Principal Sister Mary Theresa Dixon, and 100 Holy Cross School students to McCaffrey Playground to celebrate the park’s $1 million renovation.

"Are you ready kids?" bellowed Commissioner Benepe, who wore makeshift eye patch and spoke pirate-talk, to the delight of all the children in the audience. Before leading the kids in the Pledge of Allegiance, the commissioner led a responsive sing-a-long of the "SpongeBob SquarePants" theme song. Having captivated his audience, he went on to explain how Hell’s Kitchen and McCaffrey Playground both got their names.

"The most common tale for how the neighborhood got its name," Benepe explained, "is that it came after a conversation between an old-time police officer and a rookie." The neighborhood was much less safe then, and according to the lore, the rookie cop noted, "This place is hell itself!" The older officer laughed, "Hell’s a mild climate, this is Hell’s Kitchen, no less!" As for how this playground got it’s name, the story is a lot more clear. It was named for a man who had a vision of how to make this neighborhood safer and cleaner. Monsignor Joseph A. McCaffrey (1890- 1970), also known as "the Bishop of Times Square," was the pastor of the Church of the Holy Cross for 36 years and the chaplain of the New York Police Department for 30 years. He convinced the church—and then the city—to develop this land into a recreational play space for local children, as well as kids at your school.

Hell’s Kitchen has cooled off since it got its name, but Parks’ creative chefs cooked up a beautiful playground right here in the kitchen’s heart. Parks Landscape Architect Bernadette Grullon completely transformed this park into a play space that Monsignor McCaffrey would be proud of, and Parks Resident Engineer Nadia Jarrett made sure that the work went smooth.

"Thanks to $1 million in funds from Council Member Christine Quinn, Parks was able to add new features that make this one of the greatest playgrounds in the city," said Benepe. Ms. Grullon’s additions include handball courts, game tables, and drinking fountains, and a brand new basketball court. While animal cutouts dance along the fences, kids can splash through a brand new spray shower and test their skills on state-of-the-art play equipment.

Talking about the park, Sister Dixon thanked Commissioner Benepe and Parks for the prompt and beautiful completion of the renovations. She explained that the schoolchildren have no playground within the schools grounds. Rather, she elaborated, the kids rely on McCaffrey Playground for outdoor fun and exercise.

After an encore performance of the "SpongeBob SquarePants" song, the commissioner invited the giggling kids to be the first testers of the playground’s new equipment. All testing was completed successfully, and the young Playground Inspectors were rewarded with lemonade and donuts. By the end of the day it had become clear that McCaffrey Playground will provide some heavenly fun, shade, and spray showers for a community that remembers how hot Hell’s Kitchen can get.

Written by Eric Adolfsen



New York Cares Day, an annual event sponsored by Partnerships for Parks, sends volunteers out into parks and gardens for general cleaning and planting. This year there were 30 parks and 10 gardens that benefited from the clean-up.

On Saturday, May 4, 2002 Flushing Meadows-Corona Park hosted NY Cares 8th Annual Cleanup Day. The park has been a top choice for this event since its inception eight years prior. Over 150 enthusiastic volunteers participated in the cleanup, which included waterproofing benches around the back of the USTA stadium area and an extensive shoreline cleanup at Meadow Lake. Students from Newtown High School and employees from the company Accenture were among the volunteers for this great event.

On Sunday, May 5, 2002 "Queens Trees for the Future Girl Scouts" took place with head leader Naola Gersten-Woolf and several troops, leaders and parents. Daisies, Brownies and Girl Scouts continued their biannual tradition of maintaining trees adjacent to the public tennis courts in the park. Activities included pulling weeds, watering the trees and spreading wood chips.

For additional volunteer opportunities in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, please contact Kathy Dallojocono, Volunteer Coordinator, at (718) 760-6561.

By Noël Kopa


Love has its own instinct, finding the way to the heart,

as the feeblest insect finds the way to its flower,

with a will which nothing can dismay nor turn aside.

Honoré De Balzac

(May 20, 1799–1850)

Directions to McCaffrey Playground



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