What was here before?
This block was once occupied by tenement buildings, which were razed to construct the adjacent P.S 63, which opened in 1903. On the south side of East 3rd Street are the First Houses, which opened in 1935. These residential buildings were one of the first public housing projects built in the United States and used Works Progress Administration laborers and were funded in part by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The construction of the First Houses was also the first instance in which the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was granted the right to exercise eminent domain to seize land for public housing projects. The First Houses were designated both a New York City and National Historic Landmark in 1974.
How did this site become a playground?
A NYCHA-operated public playground opened in this location in the 1950s. In 1965, the playground was reconstructed, which was ceded to the City for park purposes in 1966. This playground later became a Jointly Operated Playground (JOP) serving P.S. 63 and the local community. Beginning in 1938, the Board of Education (now the Department of Education) agreed to provide land next to schools where NYC Parks could build and maintain playgrounds that could be used by the school during the day and by the public when school is not in session.
The playground was rebuilt between 1997 and 1998. In 2021, the playground was improved with new play equipment, spray shower area, plantings and upgraded infrastructure.
Who is this playground named for?
This playground is named for William McKinley (1843-1901), the twenty-fifth President of the United States. He was born on January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio and attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. In 1876 McKinley was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served until 1891 when he was elected governor of Ohio. He was reelected in 1893. McKinley defeated Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan during the presidential race of 1896 and was inaugurated on March 4, 1897.
During President McKinley’s tenure, the U.S. adopted the highest tariff rate in its history and restored the gold standard. His administration was responsible for the Open-Door Policy, which promoted equal commercial and industrial rights for all foreign nations conducting business in China. On April 25, 1898, the president declared war against Spain to protect American interests in Cuba. At the close of the war, the U.S. emerged as a world power, having annexed Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, American Samoa, and the Philippines. Shortly after his re-election, President McKinley was shot by an anarchist in Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901. He died on September 14, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) succeeded to the presidency.