Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd Playground
Samuel N. Bennerson Park
This park honors Samuel N. Bennerson II (1923-1970), a local leader active in the Amsterdam-Phipps community. Born to parents from the Virgin Islands, Bennerson was a second generation resident of the former Phipps Houses, a complex of model tenements built between 1907-1911 in this neighborhood, then known as San Juan Hill. Sponsored by philanthropist Henry Phipps, these tenements to the west of the playground were designed as affordable housing for African Americans and were constructed with ventilation, comfort and social activity in mind. The buildings were an attempt to improve on the cramped tenement conditions prevalent in the city. The playground is also set within the Amsterdam Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development on its east and south sides.
Bennerson was educated in the New York City public school system and took special training courses in still photography. He spent four years in the Air Force, where he served in Japan. In 1946 he married Edna Deas of Charleston, South Carolina. Their four children were born in the Phipps Houses, becoming third generation Lincoln Square residents. As a civic leader, Bennerson focused on programs supporting children and served as an athletic coach and mentor for Lincoln Square residents.
This park, originally called Amsterdam Playground, was designed in 1945 by the landscape architecture firm of Cynthia Wiley and Alice Recknagel. It featured swings, slides, a pipe frame exercise unit, a sand pit, seesaws and perimeter trees. The playground was redesigned in 1982, in part due to the efforts of the Betterment League, founded by Bennerson and the Lincoln Square Community Council. Its former rectilinear layout was shifted to the optimal north-south orientation for basketball play.
In 1990 at the request of members of the Lincoln Square community, the playground’s name was changed to honor Samuel Bennerson. The park was reconstructed in 2017 using the basketball itself as inspiration for many of the forms, colors, and materials used.