Naples is an ancient Italian port city. Founded as a Greek colony around 600 BCE, Neapolis (New City) retained its Greek character and language long after its absorption by Rome in the fourth century BC. As a Roman city, it was a celebrated resort and retreat for wealthy artists and politicians, including the emperor Tiberius, and the poets Virgil and Horace.
After the fall of Rome, Naples survived for several centuries under one form or another of self-governance. Eventually overtaken in the 11th century, the city passed the next 900 years in the hands of various imperial rulers, including the Angevin, Hapsburg, and Bourbon dynasties. Over the years, Naples grew as a political and cultural hub of the Campania region. Its famed university, founded in 1224 by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and the diversity of influences it absorbed over the years, created a unique cultural situation in Naples. In 1860, Guiseppe Garibaldi claimed Naples for the Kingdom of Italy.
The city suffered heavily in World War II and has been slow to recover. Rebuild it has, however, and modern industry and construction have made great alterations to the structure of the city. The old sector of Naples, with its myriad of influences reaching back to its classical roots, remains a vibrant and much-visited center of activity on the southwestern shore of Italy.
Naples Playground, on Stanwich Street, is a jointly operated playground maintained by Parks and the adjacent P.S. 48. The City acquired the property in 1953, with an addition vested in 1955. Venice Street and Britton and Oder Avenues were closed off for the purchase, and half of Stanwich Street was taken into the playground, which was approved for its present purpose in 1954. The playground was an unofficial playspace between the construction of P.S. 48 in 1931 and its opening in 1965.
Just a few months after the opening, P.S. 48 was deemed so overcrowded that school officials authorized the installation of portable classroom units in a part of the new playground. The portable classrooms were fenced off, and Parks assumed responsibility for the remainder of the playground.
Parks found that the playground was actually sinking. The comfort station buckled, pipes broke, and large potholes opened in the ground. The park was vandalized several times following a major renovation. In 1981, the playground was renovated. The renovation included the resurfacing of the basketball and softball courts, the dismantling of the portable classrooms, and the renovation of the comfort station.
For the first 20 years of its existence, Naples Playground bore the official title of P.S. 48 Playground, and was known locally as Concord Playground, for the surrounding neighborhood of Concord. The name was changed to Naples in 1985, by Commissioner Stern. The playground’s namesake, Naples Street, is somewhat of an asphalt ghost. Like several of its neighbors, the street was never officially listed on city maps. Most probably, Naples Street and the nearby Rome, Venice, and Columbus are the remnants of an unsuccessful development effort, or just local names for an area that housed many new Italian immigrant families.
A 1997-98 renovation, sponsored by Mayor Giuliani for $166,500, provided for the refurbishing of the comfort station and the installation of new asphalt pavement and safety surfacing. Today, the playground is enclosed by chain link and steel picket fences. There is a semi-circular sitting area with World’s Fair benches, a ballfield, basketball and handball courts, play structures, swings, hanging bars, Belgian Blocks, and asphalt surfacing for roller skating and other activities. The site also contains London planetrees (Platanus acerifolia), Red maple (Acer rubrum), Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), White oak (Quercus alba), Silver linden (Tilia spp.), European white birch (Betula pendula), Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), Korean dogwood (Cornus spp.), Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas), Japanese snowball (Viburnum spp.), Flowering plum (Prunus spp.), Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and White cedar (Thuja occidentalis) trees.