Railroad Playground

Railroad Playground

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

This park is located between East 91st and East 92nd Streets on Ditmas Boulevard. It was originally called Ditmas Playground for the street to the southeast, which in turn takes its name from the distinguished Van Ditmarsen family that settled in the village of Flatbush in the late 17th century. Descendants of the Dutch family have included prominent businessmen and local political figures: Johannes Ditmarse, town supervisor in Flatbush, John Ditmas, a founder of the Flatbush Trust Company, and Charles A. Ditmas, founder of the Kings County Historical Society.

The Canarsie and Rockaway Beach Railroad, a subsidiary of the Long Island Railroad, rumbles by just south of the playground. This branch opened in 1865 and served the Brooklyn neighborhoods along its corridor. During the early years of the 20th century, the line offered the most popular route for New Yorkers seeking to visit the amusement park at Canarsie Beach. The Brooklyn Terminal Market was opened in 1942-a welcome addition for train passengers and the surrounding community. The farmers' market provided fresh produce for residents and lodging for the upstate and Long Island farmers who could not return home the same day. The Brooklyn Terminal Market remains a neighborhood source for fresh vegetables, fruits, plants, and flowers.

The Department of Parks acquired this site by assignment in 1954. The park was opened in 1957 containing extensive recreational facilities including handball and basketball courts, a softball field, comfort station, wading pool and children's play area. The entire perimeter of the park was landscaped with shade trees. For three decades few changes were administered to the park except for regular maintenance and minor rehabilitation. In 1982 the play equipment, chain link fence, basketball and softball backstops, benches and paved areas were restored.

In 1997 Council Member Priscilla Wooten funded the $735,000 capital reconstruction of newly-named Railroad Playground. Influenced by the nearby Long Island Railroad tracks and the Brooklyn Terminal Market, the design incorporates a train theme. New locomotive-shaped play units, railroad pavement (made of stone railroad ties and stainless steel tracks), and spray fixtures in the form of water towers were added. Steel panels surrounding the play unit suggestive of storefront details included flowers, watermelon, tomatoes, onions, and grapes. Basketball and handball courts, and the softball field remain as originally designed at the north section of the playground.

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