This playground honors Monsignor Thomas Taaffe (1837-1920), pastor of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn. Taaffe was born in Longford, Ireland, and studied at both Trinity College and Missionary College of All Hallows in Dublin. He was ordained a priest in 1863, and was sent by the Roman Catholic Church to the United States that same year. Taaffe first served St. Anne’s Church in Brooklyn Heights, then St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Far Rockaway In 1868, he became pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church, located on Debevoise Place in Brooklyn. Four years later, Taffee became the pastor of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.
Soon after his arrival at St. Patrick’s, Father Taaffe began laying down the foundation for a new and improved parish. He settled the church’s debts and embarked on several new building projects. Between 1872 and 1903, he built a new rectory for the church, established a new school for girls, opened the Young Men’s Literary Union, and enlarged the boys’ school. He also served the Diocese of Brooklyn as a member of the Diocesan Board of School Examiners. In 1903, in recognition of Taaffe’s service, Pope Pius X (1835-1914, pope 1903-1914) promoted him from Father to Monsignor. Seven years later, the City of Brooklyn recognized Taaffe’s contributions, renaming Graham Street, in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Taaffe Place. In 1920, one year after his retirement, Msgr. Taaffe passed away.
Taaffe Playground is located on Taaffe Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Once known as Bedford Corners and Stuyvesant Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant came together to form what is now the largest African American neighborhood in New York City. Located in north central Brooklyn, the neighborhood was Dutch farmland in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the early 19th century, the farmland was divided into housing lots and sold to free blacks who settled in the area.
In 1929, Parks acquired this site for use as a playground. The area was once a busy residential and factory district in dire need of a recreational facility. In 1934, Taaffe Playground officially opened. Its features included basketball courts, a soccer field, a handball court, swings, slides, and various other pieces play equipment. Several Pin oaks (Quercus palustris) were planted in the playground as well, in the hope that they might provide much needed areas of shade in the future.
In 1997 and 1999, Mayor Giuliani provided a total of $121,724 to repair the play area safety surfacing, drinking fountains, granite floor embedding, and asphalt paving. Today, Taaffe Playground continues to serve the community in the spirit of the man whose name it bears.