This park is named after Henry A. Whalen (1917-1973), a celebrated solider, veterans rights advocate, and community activist.
The City acquired this parkland, located on the northwest corner of 205th Street and Perry Avenue, when the Concourse Subway Line was constructed. Part of the Independent Subway System (IND), Concourse was approved in 1925 and opened its various lines between 1932 and 1945. The New York City Transit Authority gave up the property in 1955 and it was assigned to NYC Parks. The Association of the Friends of Henry Whalen, local politicians, and veterans worked together to lobby for the naming of Whalen Park. Congressman Mario Biaggi of the Bronx made an address to Congress, noting Whalen’s decorations. A ceremony marked the 1973 passage of the local law that renamed the site Whalen Park.
Whalen participated in eight campaigns during World War II, serving in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Whalen saved the life of William C. Westmoreland (b.1914), who went on to earn the rank of general and command of the war effort in Vietnam; he also earned the Purple Heart, Silver Star, and three Bronze Stars for acts of distinguished valor and being wounded in action. After retiring from the military, Whalen was active in veterans’ affairs throughout the Bronx. One of his greatest accomplishments was getting the Kingsbridge Veterans’ Hospital project approved, though he did not live to see construction completed.
Mayor John V. Lindsay (1921-2001) presented Whalen with a Certificate of Appreciation for his work supporting veterans’ interests. When fire destroyed Whalen’s home, as well as those of four of his neighbors, he created a fund so that the families wouldn’t have to rely on themselves to rebuild. Soon after, Whalen, who lived a block from this park, established the Norwood Civic Association for which he served as president. He was also the president of the parish council at St. Brendan’s Church in the Bronx and for years helped organize the parade on Grand Boulevard and Concourse. He died at age 56 in 1973. His funeral included military pallbearers and a 21-gun salute. He is buried in the National Cemetery on Long Island.
A renovation in 2018 turned this “sitting park” into a multigenerational playground, with new game tables, play equipment, climbing blocks, and spray showers. The new park design is a befitting honor to Henry A. Whalen, who fought for his country and community.