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Patrick O'Rourke Park

Patrick O’Rourke Park

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

This playground is named for Patrick O’Rourke (1970-2001), a local citizen whose mistreatment during a medical procedure led to universal mandatory medical monitoring improvements. 

This area was first inhabited by Canarsie Native Americans, and later settled by the Dutch as early as 1639. By 1657, the area was annexed as part of New Utrecht, one of the six original Dutch towns that later joined as Brooklyn. Waves of immigrants made their homes here arriving from Scandinavia in the 19th century, from Ireland and Italy in the early 20th century, and later from China, Italy, and the former Soviet Union among other nationalities. 

By the early 20th century, the area was developed as a predominantly residential neighborhood and took its name, Dyker Heights after nearby Dyker Park and Dyker Beach. There are two differing stories concerning how these Brooklyn places got their name. The namesake may have been the Van Dykes who helped to divide the land when it was part of the Dutch town of New Utrecht. Or the name may reflect the dikes that the Dutch settlers used to drain and reclaim the marshy land. 

This was site of a Victory Garden during World War II with neighbors cultivating their own vegetables and aiding in the war effort. J.H.S. 201 was constructed on the eastern portion of the block, and the center portion was developed as a school playground. In 1956, NYC Parks developed a parcel adjacent to the schoolyard with play equipment for younger children and their guardians. 

In 2003, the playground was renamed in memory of Patrick O’Rourke. As a small boy O’Rourke attended Redeemer Nursery School, Public School 127, and Saint Ephrem’s School. At age eight, while undergoing a medical procedure at a local hospital, he suffered severe brain damage that rendered him incapacitated for 20 years until his death. His plight became known to many and his family took up advocacy of improved monitoring of patients. This cause was embraced and led to the use in all hospitals of a finger-monitoring alert device known as a “pulse-ox” machine, now required by law during the administration of anesthesia.

In 2016, the site was completely redesigned and reconstructed featuring new play equipment, swings and safety surface, and a tot play house. The cub was added to join the bear play feature and new benches, and a seating area completed the project.  Patrick’s plight touched numerous people, and had a global and lasting impact on medical practice. Patrick O’Rourke Playground honors his memory and will serve as a vital community green space for years to come.

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