Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This recreational area serves both the students of P.S. 104 and the surrounding community of Far Rockaway. The playground, originally named P.S. 104 Playground, was named for neighboring Westbourne Avenue in 1985.
The Canarsie (also “Canarsee”) Indians, who originally inhabited the Rockaway area, sold what was mostly barren land to English Captain John Palmer in 1685. The sale was memorialized in a deed issued by Governor Thomas Dongan. Disappointed with his purchase, Palmer sold the land in 1687 to a prominent iron worker from Long Island, Richard Cornell, whose descendant, Ezra, founded Cornell University in 1865.
The Cornell family owned the land until 1808, when it was partitioned into 46 parcels that were eventually sold to outsiders. In 1833, following an outbreak of cholera, a group of wealthy New Yorkers organized to purchase much of the property and build exclusive resorts as an escape from disease. By 1864, ferry service began, transporting inhabitants from Canarsie to the seaside in Rockaway. The introduction of rail service to the peninsula after 1869 further hastened development of hotels and summer residences there. Over the course of four decades or more, Rockaway peninsula had become a beachfront resort town, with hotels, restaurants, and summer housing. During the 1890’s, a variety of amusement parks were built. In 1898, the Village of Rockaway Park was incorporated into New York City. The peninsula continued to serve as a summer resort until the end of World War II.
Under the direction of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) in the 1930s, additional improvements in transportation led to more growth for Rockaway. The completion of two bridges, the Marine Parkway Bridge in 1937 and the Cross Bay Bridge in 1939, connected Rockaway to mainland Queens and Brooklyn. Expansions in railway service and the development of an elevated subway in 1956 further improved access to the peninsula, stimulating Rockaway’s transition from a summer resort to a neighborhood with permanent residents.
Located at Mott and Westbourne Avenues, a small schoolyard lay on this site before the current playground opened on October 22, 1950. Between 1965 and 1966, an addition was built onto P.S. 104 after vocal demands from the community for more schoolroom escalated to sit-in protests.
In 2008, City Council Member James Sanders allocated $516,000 in funds for renovations in the park, including new paving, swings and trees. Honey locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos) line the perimeter of the playground.
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