Pat Williams Playground
Hempstead Bench Spread
This park is named after nearby Hempstead Avenue, a thoroughfare to the Nassau County town of the same name, although the title “Hempstead” itself derives from Great Britain’s Hemel-Hempstead (“town spot”). Western parts of the village became a section of Queens County in 1683. Despite its proximity to Long Island, this area is still very much a part of Queens Village, and these benches offer residents a welcome respite from the traffic and noise of the Cross Island Parkway.
Hempstead Bench Spread is located on the corner of 225th Street and 104th Avenue, just west of the Cross Island Parkway. When the plans for the Cross Island Parkway were announced in 1930, the parkway was intended to run along the eastern boundary of Queens, connecting the Southern State Parkway to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. With its sister road, the Belt Parkway, the Cross Island Parkway would provide access from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island to the eastern Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut.
The plans for the Cross Island Parkway also included the creation of a series of “ribbon parks” around the parkway. These parks, playgrounds, and walkways were planned not only to compensate for the increased traffic flow, but also to entice residential growth. The parkway skirts 26 park areas totaling more than 3,500 acres, including Alley Pond Park, Crocheron Park, and Clearview Park and Golf Course. While it was the Long Island Railroad that provided the initial catalyst for residential development in eastern Queens, the opening of the Cross Island Parkway quickened this process, notably in Queens Village.
Queens Village was first called “Little Plains” by Dutch settlers in 1640. That name stuck for some 200 years before the area was named Brushville after Thomas Brush, a prominent local landowner in the mid-1800s. When the first railroad stop was built in 1834 it was also named after Brush, but in 1865 residents voted to adopt the station name Queens despite the risk of confusing the village with the county. The word Village was added in 1924 when the Long Island Railroad built an elevated station, and the post office officially adopted it. The arrival of the railroad and the Parkway transformed the community of Queens Village from a largely agricultural settlement to an important commuter suburb.
The City acquired this land in April 1938 by condemnation as part of the Cross Island Parkway proceedings. The site contains seven benches and an open brick area. In 1998, Council Member Archie Spigner allocated $82,000 to rebuild the pavement and surrounding fences.