This Canarsie playground is named in memory of New York City Police Officer Cecil Frank Sledge, who was born on August 10, 1944 in Roanoke, Alabama. In 1961 Sledge enlisted in the Army and was stationed in the New York City area until his honorable discharge in 1965. He attained the rank of Sergeant First Class in the Army Reserve. Sledge married Linda Sudjian in 1972, and they had two children, Richard and Corinne. Sledge received a Bachelor of Science degree from the New York Institute of Technology in 1977.
On June 7, 1968 Sledge joined the New York Police Department. He was first assigned to the Tactical Patrol Unit and then was stationed at the 69th Precinct in Canarsie from February 1969 to January 1972. Following a tour of duty at the Citywide Anti-Crime Unit in Decoy Operations in the Bronx, Officer Sledge returned to the 69th Precinct in April 1974. On January 28, 1980 he was shot and killed in the line of duty. Officer Sledge was posthumously given the Police Department’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
During his twelve years in the Police Department, Officer Sledge earned many awards and honors. These included one Unit Citation, two Commendation Citations, six Meritorious Police Duty Citations, and sixteen Excellent Police Duty Citations. The 69th Precinct collected many letters from private citizens praising Officer Sledge’s performance. He also received awards from the 69th Precinct Community Council and the A.W.A.R.E. (Addiction Workers Alerted to Rehabilitation and Education) organization of Canarsie.
The playground was named for Officer Sledge by Local Law 22 of 1984, sponsored by Council Member Herbert Berman. On May 6, 1984 a parade marched along Avenue L to the playground, including mounted police, officers from the 69th Precinct, and the Emerald Society Pipers. Local residents, city officials, and Sledge’s widow took part in a solemn ceremony in memory of the fallen hero. He was remembered as a "cop’s cop" who was dedicated to the welfare and safety of the community. The city acquired this parcel of land in 1924, and transferred it to Parks. Built under Commissioner Robert Moses, the playground opened on August 11, 1934 simultaneously with thirteen other play areas around the city. It originally featured a recreation building, play equipment, chlorinated foot bath, wading pool, drinking fountain, flagpole, shade trees, and shrubs.
In 1996 Council Member Berman funded the reconstruction of the playground for $500,000. Improvements made in 1997-98 included the installation of new play equipment, spring toys, safety surfacing, compass rosette, benches, water fountain, fencing, pavements, and curbs. Four trees and new ground cover were planted, and the water, drainage, and lighting systems were reconstructed.
The playground design salutes Officer Sledge’s outstanding career in the police force. The formal entry path leads to the park’s centerpiece, a spray shower flanked by two wolf-shaped spray bollards. Pointing their noses towards the sky and the flag beyond, the howling wolves represent Cecil Frank Sledge’s calling as a New York City police officer. To the east, the garden area features a path inlaid with steel bands representing citations he was awarded. The path winds through a "field of stars"—a term for the Police Department’s Medal of Honor.