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Rolf Henry Playground

Rolf Henry Playground

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

Rolf Henry Playground honors a local businessman and community organizer, whose tragic murder robbed his community of an open-hearted and energetic soul.

Henry spent his early years in Belmont and Woodbrook, Trinidad. In the 1960s, he moved to New York and entered the printing business, later opening his own printing company on Ocean Avenue. As business thrived, he also opened a restaurant and nightclub near his home on New York Avenue, across the street from this playground. His success was everyone's gain, for much of his income went to charities, and twice each year he hosted meals for the poor.

An involved member of the Rosicrucian and Traditional Martinist Orders, Rolf Henry attended worldwide conferences in Norway, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, and England, and San Jose, California. He was also one of the founding members of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, which organizes the colorful Labor Day parade along Eastern Parkway each year. The parade, which moved from Harlem in the late 1960s, celebrates the vibrant role of immigrants like Henry in the cultural life of New York City.

In 1993, Rolf Henry was shot while at work at his nightclub. He was taken to nearby Kings County Hospital, but could not be saved. In recognition of his contributions to the community, Council Member Una Clarke requested that this playground, located on the northwest corner of New York and Clarkson Avenues, be renamed in Henry's honor.

The playground site, transferred to Parks from the Department of Hospitals in 1936, was previously known as McKinney-Steward Playground. Dr. Susan Smith McKinney-Steward (ca. 1846-1918) was the first African-American woman to become a doctor in New York State, and the third in the United States. She was born in Brooklyn and graduated from the New York Medical College for Women as valedictorian in 1870. McKinney-Steward treated both blacks and whites at her practice in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and she helped found the Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary in Clinton Hill in 1881.

Rolf Henry Playground underwent a complete reconstruction from 1998-2000, with $250,000 in funds from Council Member Una Clarke and $121,447 provided by Mayor Giuliani. The playground today features new play equipment, benches, a refurbished comfort station, a flagpole with yardarm, new fences and guardrails, and a decorative gate.

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