Pfc Norton Playground
Private Norton Playground
Born in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn, Norton attended St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School on Flatbush Avenue. In 1961 he enrolled at Madison High School. Norton was a talented football player and chose to play for the Titans, a team sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. He attended high school for an additional year in order to meet the requirements of both his team and his school. The son of a Parks Department employee and a seasonal Parks employee himself, Norton enlisted in the army in his 20th year.
Thomas Norton had worked for Parks during the summers. His father, William Norton, worked as a Senior Supervisor of Park Operations with Parks and served as President of the Uniformed Park Officers Association during the 1960s. Thomas Norton received his high school diploma in 1966, enlisted in the Army and in 1967 was sent to Vietnam. In the following year, on April 22, 1968, Private Norton was killed in action in the province of Binh Duong in South Vietnam. Posthumously, Private Norton was promoted to the rank of Private First Class (PFC) and was awarded both the Silver and Bronze Stars in addition to the Purple Heart. His name appears on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. on panel 51E, Line 32. In the years following, a tree was planted in Central Park and a memorial placed in Marine Park in his honor.
PFC Norton Playground, located on Nostrand Avenue, just south of Kings Highway, was acquired by Parks on June 6, 1940. The playground was originally designed by Parks and built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1969, Acting Commissioner William R. Ginsburg renamed the park for PFC Norton. The ceremony featured speakers from the County Headquarters of the American Legion and Fort Hamilton. Attendees included members from the Brooklyn chapters of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Knights of Columbus.
In 2007, a reconstruction of the playground was funded with $813,000 from Council Member Kendall Stewart, and $177,000 from Mayor Bloomberg. New swings, safety surfacing, reconstructed handball courts, new benches as well as a new spray shower and drinking fountain were installed. The design also introduced new plantings, including three northern red oak trees (Quercus rubra); the northern bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica), a coastal shrub tolerant of salty climes and reflective of the nearby Marine Park and the shoreline of Jamaica Bay; the red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), a deciduous shrub with clusters of white flowers in spring and bright red berries in fall and winter; and wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), a hardy evergreen shrub. The playground has been home to 16 northern red oaks planted approximately 50 years ago; the new design reconfigured the space to give more room for their burgeoning root systems.