McCarren Park

Vincent V. Abate Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground honors Vincent Vito Abate (b. 1918), a lifetime Greenpoint, Brooklyn, resident and community activist. Vito Abate, Vincent’s father, came to America after having fought in the Turkish-Italian War and was drafted to fight in World War I just a few months later.

Abate attended P.S. 23 and the Boys’ School on Johnson Avenue, both of which have been demolished. Abate was drafted into the military prior to World War II, and married his wife, Rae Salvato (b. 1921), during the war. Together they traveled the country before returning to Greenpoint, where they raised their two daughters, Marie and Lorraine. Abate was involved in the manufacturing and bottling of carbonated beverages through the 1970s, when disposable bottles were introduced and were no longer returned for reuse. He then worked at the appellate courts, and continued his efforts to improve the quality of life in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

Since his days as an altar boy at St. Francis of Paola Church in Williamsburg, where he and his father built a grotto in 1938, Abate has been deeply involved in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg communities. A member of numerous community organizations, he has been the Chairman of Community Board 1 in Brooklyn, one of the borough’s most diverse neighborhoods, since 1980. Abate has belonged to the Greenpoint Hospital Advisory Board, the Greenpoint Hospital Planning Board, the New York City Cross Subsidy Fund, the American Legion, the Kings County American Legion, the St. Francis Bugle, Fife and Drum Cadet Corps, the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Comprehensive Health Board, and Don Bosco Knights of Columbus, among others. The Women, Infant and Children Nutrition Center at Greenpoint Hospital was named for him in 1981.

McCarren Park, previously known as Greenpoint Park, was divided into four blocks by street railroad lines. All four parcels of land were acquired by the City of New York between 1903 and 1905. Two playgrounds with outdoor gymnastic apparatus were developed: one for boys at the corner of Bedford and North 14th Streets, and one for girls at the corner of Manhattan and Driggs Avenues. Abate playground stands on the site of the latter.

In the 1910s McCarren Park was supplied with state-of-the-art athletic facilities, including a 1/2-mile track, a field that was adapted for use as an ice rink in winter, tennis courts, a platform for dancing, play equipment for small children, and fields for baseball, football, and soccer. In 1914 Brooklyn’s first children’s farm garden opened on the site, and 240 “little farmers” tended 120 8’ x 4’ plots that nurtured radishes, beets, carrots, beans, onions, lettuce, and corn. By 1915 the “Farm House” shelter at the garden was used as a social center where clubs and church groups met. The park’s pool, which has been closed since 1984, was one of 11 enormous pools built by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) with the Works Progress Administration. The pool opened in 1936 with a capacity for 6800 swimmers, and its vast scale and dramatic arches, designed by Aymar Embury II, typify the generous and heroic spirit of New Deal architecture.

This parkland was named for Vincent V. Abate by local law 114 in 1993. The playground contains play equipment, safety surfacing, benches, two swing sets, picnic tables, one full and one half basketball court, a spray shower with butterflies, worms and caterpillars on the ground design, and a drinking fountain.

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