Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
Alice Wragg Kornegay (1932‑1996) was a pioneering community advocate in East Harlem for more than thirty‑five years. Born in Georgetown, South Carolina, she came to East Harlem to live with cousins at the age of ten, after her parents died. She studied social work at Baruch College, and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Antioch College in Baltimore, Maryland. She married Richard Kornegay, and together they raised a family.
Mrs. Kornegay devoted herself to improving social and economic conditions in the neighborhood where she grew up. In 1961 she joined with members of the Chambers Memorial Baptist Church to found the Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle. As president of this organization, Mrs. Kornegay secured financing for the construction of low income housing and helped establish a variety of institutions that have become vital social centers for the community. These include the Community Day Care #2, Beatrice Lewis Senior Center, East Harlem Senior Center, and Salvation Army Center. She also was a member of Community Board 11, Community School Board 5, the 25th Precinct Community Council, and the Harlem Commonwealth Council. Alice Wragg Kornegay died in 1996.
The playground named in memory of Mrs. Kornegay is located on parkland along the Harlem River Drive, on the eastern border of the East Harlem Triangle. The Harlem River Driveway, also known as the Speedway, was authorized by chapter 102 of the Laws of 1893. Its purpose was to develop a secluded section of the west bank of the river for public use and eventually for trade and commercial purposes as well. The Speedway opened in July 1898, from W. 155th Street to Dyckman Street, and was a popular location for high speed horseback riding and horse-and-carriage races. In 1915 the route was adapted for use as a parkway for automobiles.
In 1937 Parks Commissioner Robert Moses announced a program to extend the Harlem River Drive south to E. 125th Street in order to connect with the north end of the projected East River Drive (now Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive). The new construction isolated a segment of the old Speedway that heads inland at West 165th Street behind the Colonial Houses and Polo Ground Houses. New landscaping, parks, and playgrounds contributed to the beauty and utility of the Harlem River Drive. In 1957 Parks opened three new recreational areas between East 126th and East 130th Streets. This playground, located at East 128th Street and Lexington Avenue, featured a wading pool, sand pit, swings, slides, jungle gym, shuffleboard courts, benches, and comfort station—all surrounded by a screen of park trees.
In 1997 Parks officials and community members gathered to celebrate renovations to the playground. The City Council funded a $193,000 capital renovation of the comfort station, which took place in 1996. The building received a new roof, window units with security bars, metal doors and frames, handicap accessibility, lighting, and plumbing equipment. The following year new modular playground equipment was installed, as well as new fencing, safety surfacing, and a new concrete camel for children to climb.
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