Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This playground is named for Crispus Attucks (c. 1723-1770), an African American killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Unfortunately, historians know little about Attucks’s early life. They believe that he was a runaway slave of mixed African and Native American descent from Framingham, Massachusetts, who spent more than 20 years working on ships sailing from Boston.
In 1768, following colonial protests over the passage of a series of import duties known as the Townsend Acts (1767), British troops were sent to Boston to keep order. The soldiers’ presence, however, only exacerbated tensions between the British and the Americans. On March 5, 1770, Attucks joined a crowd that was jeering at British soldiers stationed in Boston. Panicked, the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five men and wounding two others. Attucks, standing toward the front of the crowd, was the first killed. The soldiers involved stood trial but were acquitted, and the Boston Massacre became a rallying cry for radical American patriots who used the incident to sharpen the divide between the British and the Americans. Attucks, the runaway slave whose freedom was always uncertain, became a symbol of the American colonial fight for freedom.
Located at the intersection of Fulton Street and Classon Avenue, Parks acquired this site in 1926. Eight years later, the Board of Aldermen designated this park Crispus Attucks Playground, making it the first Parks facility named for an African American. Parks opened this playground simultaneously with two others in Manhattan and the Bronx on Sunday, October 28, 1934, at 3:30 p.m.
In 1989, Crispus Attucks Playground underwent a comprehensive renovation. Parks installed new concrete and asphalt pavements, game tables, a steel chain link fence, and timber-form play equipment. Funding also went to refurbish the comfort station as well as the basketball and handball courts. Many trees and shrubs were added including London planetrees (Platanus acerfolia), Scholar trees (Sophora japonica), Kousa dogwoods (Cornus Kousa), Pink flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida rubra), Red maples (Acer rubrum), Pense yews (Taxus baccata repandens), Lowfast cottoneasters (Cottoneaster dammeri), Purple leaf water creepers (Euonymus fortunei), Hardy English ivy (Hedera helix baltica), and Japanese spurges (Pachysandra terminalis).
Of these plants, the London planetree is the most common to New York City parks. A hybrid of the American sycamore and the Oriental plane tree, the London planetree resembles the American sycamore, but its fruit clusters are borne in pairs rather than singly. The tree takes its name from London, England, where it flourished despite the city’s coal-polluted air. New York City’s early park designers planted many of these robust trees throughout the city.
- Crispus Attucks Playground
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