Queens Valley Playground
Queens Valley Playground
Queens Valley is a former name of Kew Gardens Hills, a neighborhood originally known as Head of the Vleigh. The latter name is derived from Vleigh Road, now Vleigh Place, which connected the town of Flushing to Brooklyn during colonial times. The road allowed travelers to circumvent Flushing Meadow, then an impassible swamp.
During the 18th century, much of Head of the Vleigh was part of a farm owned by William Furman, who called the area Willow Glen due to the weeping willows found on his property. In 1820, Furman sold his land to Timothy Jackson, who expanded the farm to accommodate his horses. Despite transportation improvements that led to the development of the surrounding communities of Hopedale (Kew Gardens), Whitepot (Forest Hills), and Richmond Hill, the area, which in the 19th century became known as Queens Valley, remained farmland until the end of the 1800s.
In the early 20th century, however, developers sought to draw wealthy New Yorkers to the area by establishing country clubs. The Queens Valley country club opened in 1922, followed by the Arrowbrook and Pomonok clubs. The area soon became an attractive place for wealthy vacationers such as Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947), who made the neighborhood his summer residence.
With the arrival of the Independent subway in 1936, which promised a 20-minute ride into Manhattan, Queens Valley became even more attractive to developers. Entrepreneur Abraham Wolosoff purchased land in the area hoping to use the area’s hills and rural setting to attract settlers. The developer also gave the neighborhood its current name, Kew Gardens Hills, after he had enjoyed a stay in a hotel in the Kew Gardens section of London. The London neighborhood is, in turn, named for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England.
By the time the World’s Fair opened in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in 1939, more than 1,200 homes had been erected in Kew Gardens Hills. Many residential, institutional, and commercial buildings were designed in the Colonial Revival style popular in the mid-20th century. In the 1960’s, Kew Gardens Hills saw an influx of Jewish residents, who today continue to shape the neighborhood, as evidenced by the many Israeli-owned businesses and kosher food stores among the area’s apartments, co-ops, and single-family homes.
The City acquired the land for Queens Valley Playground on September 16, 1942 as a gift from the Queens Valley Development Corporation to be used for school, playground, or park purposes. A joint agreement between Parks and the Board of Education for the operation of the playground was signed on May 6, 1943, and the playground became the 510th playground in the Park system when it opened on January 12, 1949. The park was originally known as P.S. 164 Playground, but its name was changed by Commissioner Stern to reflect its location adjacent to P.S. 164, the Queens Valley School for the Visual and Performing Arts.
In 1997 Council Member Morton Povman financed a $260,000 reconstruction of the playground. Today, the park contains play equipment, safety surfacing, 16 benches, a concrete baseball diamond, two handball courts, swings, a basketball court, and a spray shower in the shape of a bird.