Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This site and the surrounding neighborhood of Bensonhurst grew exponentially following the construction of steam railroads in the 1870s. This new technology led to the development of the agricultural town of New Utrecht, located in the southwestern region of what is now Brooklyn. In the late 1880s, developer James Lynch bought land here from the prominent Benson family, planted five thousand shade trees, and built 1000 villas. Lynch named his newly-built community Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea after the Bensons, whose ancestry could be traced to the earliest Dutch settlers. Stretching from 20th to 23rd Avenues and from 78th Street to Gravesend Bay, the 350-acre town encompassed the present-day neighborhoods of Bath Beach and Bensonhurst.
The Real Estate Record lauded Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea as “the most perfectly developed suburb ever laid out around New York.” Lynch’s experiment catalyzed the residential development of New Utrecht, attracting working families seeking respite from the increasingly crowded streets of Manhattan. In 1891, the City of Brooklyn passed a local law calling for “the establishment and government of a public park in the town of New Utrecht, to be known as Bensonhurst Park.” In 1895, the city proceeded to purchase roughly 16 acres of land from various members of the Benson and Lynch families for a total of $88,000. This original parcel of land constitutes the majority of the park’s present-day acreage. Two smaller parcels were later acquired by condemnation in 1924 and 1944.
At the time the parkland was purchased, the town of New Utrecht had already doubled in population from its humble and experimental beginnings. Further growth came to the area in the 1930s, spurred by the construction of the Belt Parkway, which provided a tree-lined route along the shorefront areas of Brooklyn and Queens. An influx of southern Italian and eastern European immigrants added to the area in the 1950s, infusing the neighborhood with new culture and language.
Bensonhurst Park is among the 26 parks crossed by the Belt Parkway, a roadway that also divides the park itself into two sections. The southern region, facing Gravesend Bay, requires special maintenance to prevent flooding from the exceptionally high tides. In addition to a baseball field, this region features a promenade with a view of the Verrazano Narrows. This walkway is a portion of the East Coast Greenway, a path for pedestrians and cyclists planned to stretch from Maine to Florida. This project, which currently follows the length of the Belt Parkway, aims eventually to circle the entirety of Jamaica Bay.
Today, Bensonhurst Park lies in the heart of the Bath Beach neighborhood. Gravesend Bay serves as the southern boundary to the site, located on Cropsey Avenue between Bay Parkway and 21st Avenue. Its features include benches with game tables, handball and basketball courts, two baseball fields, swings, and modular play equipment with safety surfacing. The senior citizen center near the Cropsey Avenue entrance provides Bath Beach’s senior residents a place to socialize and play cards. In 1997, Mayor Giuliani allocated $85,000 for improvements to the sanitary house sewer at the recreational center. In the spring of 1999, the Cropsey Avenue entrance to the park was enlivened with the planting of saltspray roses (Rosa rugosa), various bulbs, and ornamental grass. These sprinklings of color and the pervasive beauty of the ocean lure residents of all ages to this multi-dimensional parkland.
- Bensonhurst Park
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