Wood Park, located in the South Bronx neighborhood of Parkchester, honors one of New York’s most controversial mayors, Fernando Wood (1812-1881).
Born on June 14, 1812 in Philadelphia, Wood moved to New York City to launch a successful career as a real estate speculator. At the age of 29, he won a seat in the U.S. Congress (1841-1843). At the end of his term, Wood returned to the business world where he garnered numerous business and governmental contacts over a short period, enabling him to bypass the corrupt machinations of New York’s dominant political machine, Tammany Hall (1855-1932). To Tammany’s chagrin, Wood successfully ran for mayor as a member of the Democratic Party in 1855. Wood served out his two-year term, but later lost reelection to Daniel Tiemann (1805-1899).
During his first term, Wood earned a reputation as a defender of immigrants and the poor, but was criticized by businessmen associated with Tammany Hall. Forming his own political machine, Mozart Hall, Wood wrestled the mayoralty back from Tammany Hall control in 1859. Over the next two years, he sponsored a number of initiatives aimed at helping the City’s underprivileged. Wood’s administration also set aside land for the establishment of Manhattan’s Central Park.
Believing a state’s right of self-governance to be legislatively supreme, Wood criticized President Abraham Lincoln’s (1809-1865) goal of consolidating the North and South, and taking away the territories’ right to decide for themselves whether or not to have slavery. At the onset of the Civil War (1861-1865), Wood advocated that New York City withdraw from the Union and form its own neutral, independent state. Though Wood’s idea had little support, his new organization, the “Peace Democrats” (also known as the Copperheads), were a constant thorn in Lincoln’s side. In 1862 Wood was voted out of office, and he returned to Congress one year later, where he was re-elected for all but one term throughout the rest of his life. He died on February 14, 1881.
This parkland, located at the intersection of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, Thieriot and Wood Avenues, was acquired in conjunction with the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway. It opened on July 21, 1956, offering wooden benches and a drinking fountain. In 1997, City Council Member Lucy Cruz allocated $28,000 in funding for site improvements. Despite its presence in the middle of traffic, Wood triangle offers a pleasant and quiet sitting area surrounded by a variety of trees.