William F. Passannante Ballfield
William F. Passannante Ballfield
What was here before?
Long ago the area was home to the Lenape people. In the nineteenth century, the central Greenwich Village precinct immediately to the north was known as Little Africa and was home to an early settlement of freed Blacks. Later the south Village welcomed a sizeable community of Italian immigrants. In the late 1920s, Sixth Avenue was extended south from Minetta Lane to Canal Street, causing extensive demolition of properties in the path of construction and displacement of numerous residents. The extension of Sixth Avenue also led to the removal of an elevated train and the construction of the underground subway.
How did this site become a park?
This site was acquired by the City of New York for the construction of the Independent Subway. In May 1934, the Board of Transportation granted NYC Parks permission to develop four parcels on West Houston Street for playground purposes. This northeastern parcel was one of 38 new playgrounds added to the NYC Parks system during the first four months of Robert Moses’ 26-year tenure as Parks Commissioner. It opened on September 14, 1934.
In 1998, at the request of Community Board 2, the park was named in honor of Assemblyman William F. Passannante and the park underwent reconstruction the same year. The ballfields were repaved, the basketball courts and softball fields were repainted, and the baseball backstop was renovated. The ballfield was again repaved as part of a city capital improvement completed in 2020. This multi-purpose community recreational resource continues to serve a variety of uses from organized baseball and roller hockey to exercise classes and an ad-hoc play space for local schools.
Who is this park named for?
This ballfield is named in memory of William (“Bill”) F. Passannante (1920-1996), a lifelong Villager who represented his community in the New York State Assembly for 36 years. Born on February 10, 1920, Passannante was educated in New York City public schools and received a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University in 1940. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he graduated with a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.
Passannante worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1949 to 1953 and as Legislative Counsel to the President of the New York City Council in 1954. That same year, Passannante was elected to the New York State Assembly. He represented Greenwich Village and various parts of lower Manhattan from 1955 through 1990. Passannante’s dedication to the community was legendary, and his far-ranging accomplishments earned him much praise.
Passannante was appointed Deputy Speaker in 1977 and named Speaker Pro Tem in 1979. He served as President of the National Conference of State Legislatures in 1982 and 1983. A prominent Democrat-Liberal, Passannante was honored by Republican President Ronald Reagan with an appointment to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in 1983. After his retirement from the Assembly in 1990, he was appointed Commissioner of the New York State Commission of Investigation. Passannante held the post until his death on December 15, 1996.