Rochdale Park

Rochdale Park

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

The cooperative housing community of Rochdale Village is bounded by Baisley Boulevard, Bedell Street, 137th Avenue, and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. Located in the South Jamaica community, Rochdale Village occupies the former site of the Jamaica Racetrack. The Metropolitan Jockey Club opened the track on April 27, 1903 with fifteen thousand persons in attendance. The one-mile, oval track housed thoroughbred horse racing and was reputed to be extremely fast due to a superior drainage system. The complex featured 9,000 grandstand seats and an open field intended for additional seating. The facility set its maximum attendance record on Memorial Day 1945, housing 64,679 spectators. Unfortunately, Jamaica Racetrack deteriorated over time; it closed on August 1, 1959.

In 1963, architect Herman Jessor’s Rochdale Village was completed on the former site of the Jamaica Racetrack. Developer Abraham Kazan of the, United Housing Foundation, provided $86 million in financial support for the massive endeavor. The first step involved the total demolition of the dilapidated track. Then, Kazan’s construction crews built 20 fourteen-story apartment buildings on the 170-acre site. When completed, Rochdale Village housed 5,860 families in middle-income cooperatives. The United Housing Foundation set aside 10 acres for a shopping center and provided space for 3 public schools that were later built. For a time, Rochdale Village held the record as the largest private housing complex worldwide; it is surpassed only by Herman Jessor’s later project, Co-op City (1970), which is located in the Bronx.

Rochdale Park is located on the eastern side of New York Boulevard, North of 137th Avenue. The Rochdale Village Company presented the property as a gift to the City of New York on May 14th, 1962. Parks acquired the property during September 1962. Richard G. Stein & Associates designed the park that lies on this property. Determined to add variety to the extremely flat area, Stein constructed huge pyramidal mounds within the park. Opened in March 1971, Rochdale Park consists of a main park (8.363-acres) and a playground (.919-acres). Parks, in cooperation with the Board of Education, maintains the playground in service of the local community and the nearby J.H.S. 72 (Count and Catherine Basie School).

In June 1998, Rochdale Park received a $500,000 renovation, funded by Council Member Thomas White, Jr. The improvements included the installation of modular play equipment, safety surfacing, fencing, and the re-paving of various park areas. The playground also contains swings, handball courts, and a spray shower. The main park boasts the Vic Hanson Recreation Center, which runs a day camp, offers an adult tennis program, and houses Parks District #12 maintenance crew chiefs. In years past, the recreation center hosted boxing programs and housed the Parks District #12 headquarters. Rochdale Park also features baseball fields, tennis courts, and basketball courts. Formerly known as ‘Park and J.H.S. 72 Playground’, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern affixed the property’s present name during June 1987.

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