Sankofa Park

Schenck Playground

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

The Schencks, for whom this playground and Schenck Avenue are named, first lived in Brooklyn in colonial times, and members of the family served in political office over several generations. The Schencks descended from Johannes Schenk (1656-1748), who was born in Holland, married Maria Magdalena de Hes (1660-1729), and immigrated to America in 1683. A year after their arrival, the Schenks affiliated themselves with the Collegiate Reformed Dutch Church in New York. In 1685, they moved upstate to Esopus (now Kingston), where Johannes taught at the Reformed Dutch Church for five years. The couple moved back to Brooklyn, and Johannes took a new teaching post and became the town clerk of Flatbush. This was not surprising, for it was common at the time for schoolmasters to serve as town clerks as well. Johannes held both posts until 1712, when he and his family moved to Bushwick. In 1719, Johannes Schenk was elected to represent the town in the Board of Supervisors of Kings County. This established a family tradition—his son Johannes Schenk, Jr. was elected to the same office in 1728, and Judge Abraham Schenk, a grandson of Maria and Johannes Schenk, served on the board from 1751 to 1757. In the fourth generation in America, the family changed the spelling of its name from Schenk to Schenck. Starting in 1853, Johannes’ great-great-grandsons, Isaac C. Schenck and Gilliam Schenck, represented Bushwick on the Board of Supervisors of Kings County, each serving several years in the mid-1800s. Throughout the generations, the family inhabited homes in the present-day neighborhoods of New Lots, Flatlands, Flatbush, and Bushwick.

This property was originally the site of P.S. 72, which was abandoned in 1944. At the time, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981, Commissioner 1934-60) requested that the site be converted into a playground. However, the Beth Jacob Teachers’ Seminary of America was interested in using the building as a school, and acquired the building at a public auction in 1945. The seminary was unable to secure enough money to rehabilitate the building, and had to give up on the project. The Board of Estimate returned a portion of the purchase price to the seminary, and took possession of the building in January 1950. In March of the same year, Moses again requested the property be used for a playground. This time his request was granted. The Board of Estimate officially turned the property over to Parks in 1953. P.S. 72 was torn down and construction of the playground began. In 1995, Council Member Priscilla A. Wooten funded a $450,000 renovation, which provided new handball and basketball courts, modular play equipment with safety surfacing, new fencing, and picnic and checkerboard tables.

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