Bill Rainey Park
Bounded by Dawson and Beck Streets and Intervale and Longwood Avenues, Bill Rainey Park is named after William F. Rainey (1920-1985), an African-American veteran of World War II and a dedicated volunteer and leader in the community. Rainey received a degree in Education from Columbia University Teacher’s College, and helped organize cultural and educational exchange trips for students to the Caribbean. He was also responsible for turning the Police Athletic League Lynch Community Center into a model recreation facility. As director of the Lynch Center for nearly twenty years, Rainey worked tirelessly towards improving the quality of life for all who lived in the community, especially children. In addition, Rainey held many leadership responsibilities in the community, including one term as Vice Chairman of Community Board 2, and several years of work with local improvement organizations. Rainey was a member of the New York State Parks and Recreation Society and led the Recreation Committee for the Exploring Program of the Boy Scouts of America.
Bill Rainey was an avid supporter of a proposal to replace the vacant lots and tenement buildings of Kelly Street with a park at this site. Because of the community’s efforts, the land was acquired by the City through condemnation in 1984. In February 1986, construction began on what would be the biggest recreational project in the South Bronx in a century. Sadly, Rainey passed away before the park was finished, but a grassroots campaign soon arose to name the park for him. A local law officially named the property Bill Rainey Park on October 9, 1991. Before being named in honor of Rainey, the park was commonly called Kelly Street Park because the street was closed off between Intervale and Longwood Avenues and incorporated into the park. Kelly Street is named for Samuel Kelly who owned a farm nearby in the early 1800s.
Bill Rainey Park hosts a number of activities throughout the year. Parks holds a festival every summer that features concerts and other events. The New York City Asthma Initiative hosts an annual event here to provide resources for those affected by the disease and to provide entertainment for the community. The park is also the site of Gaiafest, an annual multicultural event featuring concerts, poetry readings, and children’s games. The local Little League uses the baseball fields, and the annual Little League parade ends here.
Today the park features three baseball fields, a football and soccer field, a jogging path, drinking fountains, lawns, and a diverse selection of trees. In 1995, comfort stations and the Bill Rainey Parkhouse were added to the site. The Parkhouse provides maintenance facilities for the park, and serves as the headquarters for District 2 park workers, who also maintain 25 other sites in Longwood and Hunts Point. A recent renovation enclosed and resodded Ballfield 3 on Longwood Avenue. The park serves as fitting honor to Bill Rainey, a community leader whose hard work and dedication affected the lives of those around him and helped bring about the creation of this park.