Pelham Bay Park

Playground for All Children

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

This playground is one of several throughout the city aimed at providing a recreation area that all children, able bodied and disabled, can enjoy. The first such playground in the city, also named Playground For All Children, opened at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens in 1984. The idea for the playground originated in 1974, when a small unit within the Department of City Planning was assigned to research the special needs of people with disabilities. Among the group’s discoveries was that people with disabilities often became isolated from the rest of society because they avoided certain buildings, streets, and facilities that were difficult for them to negotiate. Many children with disabilities had also become isolated from the general child population because it was nearly impossible for them to enter many playgrounds, let alone play on the equipment. A decade of collaboration between City agencies, architects, recreational professionals, planners, advocacy groups for the disabled, and hundreds of disabled and non-disabled children helped to shape the first Playground For All Children, a $3.7 million project that took three years to build. As with the original Playground For All Children, this parkland features colorful play equipment and handrails that can be reached by children using crutches or wheelchairs, textured pavement and Braille signs to help guide the blind, and accessible swings.

Three times the size of Central Park, Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in New York City. Its 2,700 acres encompass the beautiful Orchard beach, two golf courses, ballfields, bridle paths, tennis courts, numerous nature preserves, and a firing range used by the New York Police Department. The park also contains the Bartow-Pell Mansion. Built between 1836 and 1842 by publisher Robert Bartow on land that had once belonged to English doctor Thomas Pell, the Bartow-Pell Mansion is the last extant mansion of the many that once overlooked Pelham Bay.

Located nearby on Crimi Road is the Bronx Victory Column and Memorial Grove, which honors servicemen from the Bronx who lost their lives defending their country. Built in 1933, the 75-foot tall limestone column supports a bronze statue of Winged Victory. The grove is home to more than 500 Norway maples and linden trees, all transplanted from the Grand Concourse when subway construction began on the IND line. Also located nearby in the park is the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary, one of New York City's great outdoor classrooms for the study of nature. Salt marshes, including the Goose Creek Marsh and the Hutchinson River Marshes, are common in the area. A variety of egrets and herons stalk the wetlands; raccoons comb the marshy waters hunting for fish; marine fish breed and spawn in the quiet inlets. On the marsh's upland edges, red-winged blackbirds and marsh wren find favorable habitat. The Split Rock Trail serves this sanctuary.

For years, this site remained an ordinary, unnamed Parks playground. In 2000, a massive reconstruction was completed, making the play areas accessible to all children, and prompting its designation as the Playground for All Children. The $2.59 million renovation, funded through the New York State Environmental Quality Bond Act, Council Member Madeline Provenzano, Mayor Giuliani, and Borough President Fernando Ferrer, included the removal of pavement, curbs, basketball asphalt, benches, and a concrete wading pool, which were all in poor condition. Play equipment was relocated, the comfort station was made accessible and new pavements, adjustable basketball hoops, bleachers with shade covers, benches, game tables, steel fencing, and picnic tables were installed. A new spray shower, a natural area with accessible boardwalk and activity stations, a shallow pond with wetland plantings, and an upgraded parking and vehicle drop-off area were also added to the playground.

Directions to Pelham Bay Park

Know Before You Go

Nature Centers
Orchard Beach Nature Center

Orchard Beach Nature Center is closed to the public.

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