Pena Herrera Park
P.S. 1 Playground
This playground, located on Third Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets, adjoins P.S. 1, known as the Bergen School. P.S. 1 inherited this name, which is a reference to the city of Bergen, Norway and a reminder that Brooklyn was home to 15,000 Norwegian-Americans by the end of the 19th century, and 200,000 by 1950.
The first large group of Norwegian immigrants to arrive in the United States sailed into New York Harbor aboard the Restauration on October 9, 1825. Others followed, mostly merchant seamen in Norway’s expanding commercial shipping industry. Lured by higher wages, the seamen transferred to fleets sailing for the United States. As they began spending more time in the ports up and down the Atlantic Seaboard, Norwegian settlements sprang up all along the East Coast, from Brooklyn, New York to Pensacola, Florida.
The area between 45th Street and 60th Street in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn was once called Little Norway. Norwegian organizations and churches flourished here, along with the social services institutions for which Scandinavia is famous. The Norwegian Seamen’s Home and Hospital, Deaconess Hospital (now the Lutheran Medical Center), Homes for the Aged, and the Children’s Home were among them. Lively parades were held in the neighborhood on October 9th (Leif Eriksson Day) and May 17th (Norwegian Independence Day). On a postcard to Norway, one immigrant wrote, “Brooklyn is like a Norwegian village. We help each other, we live close to each other, work and celebrate together and speak Norwegian in our homes and in our neighborhood.”
The Norwegians were one of many immigrant groups to settle in Sunset Park. The southwest corner of Brooklyn has been attracting immigrant populations since the Dutch purchased parcels of land from the Canarsee Indians in the 1640s. European immigration peaked in the 19th century as newcomers from Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Scandinavia found work on the waterfront and established enclaves in the area. Many of the row houses and brownstones that the latest newcomers to Sunset Park live in today were built during this period.
In the 1970s, the reintroduction of light industry to the area attracted a new wave of immigrants. Today many of the students at the Bergen School are from Latin America and Asia. Sunset Park even has its own Chinatown. There is still a parade every October, but now it celebrates the ethnic diversity of the community and is known as the Sunset Park Parade of Flags.
Parks received this property from the City in 1958, and the playground opened in 1968. In 2000, Mayor Giuliani sponsored a $72,641 reconstruction of the play equipment and safety surfacing, as well as other site work. The playground also offers basketball and handball courts, benches, and a comfort station. An elephant sculpture is popular with the younger children, as are the swings and spray shower.