Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
Maurice A. FitzGerald (1897-1951) was born in Brooklyn and attended Boys’ High School and the New Lots Evening High School. He began his career as a civil servant at the age of fourteen, working as a postal clerk. In the 1920s FitzGerald became the president of the South Side Allied Civic Association and championed the construction of John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Queens. He also successfully opposed the displacement of local residents by the widening of streets.
In 1929 FitzGerald was elected to the State Assembly where he served for nine years. During his tenure he actively supported laws that extended the parkways through Queens, earning him the moniker “The Father of Queens Parkways.” FitzGerald also led a successful campaign to regulate utility companies, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. A staunch supporter of civil service and labor, he sponsored many pro-worker bills, including ones that restricted court injunctions and prohibited yellow-dog contracts which prevented workers from joining unions.
In 1937 FitzGerald was elected Sheriff of Queens and embarked on a vigorous beautification and enforcement campaign for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair. In 1942 he was appointed Borough Public Works Commissioner, a position he held for seven years. FitzGerald was swept into the Queens Borough Presidency on the Democratic ticket with Mayor William O’Dwyer in 1949. Borough President FitzGerald suffered a fatal heart attack in 1951 while vacationing in the Adirondacks, ending a productive career of public service.
Later that year, the City Council named a new playground for FitzGerald in Ozone Park where he had been a longtime resident. FitzGerald had been instrumental in securing the site as a park and had participated in the groundbreaking ceremonies months before his death.
The playground’s facilities were improved in 1999 with the completion of a $615,000 capital renovation with funds allocated by Council Member Alfonso Stabile. The improvements included new modular play equipment, a spray shower, benches and sitting areas, along with extensive greening and shrubs. The playground’s design was inspired by FitzGerald’s Irish heritage, and features sheep figures (one of which is a life-sized concrete sheep), a “woven” paving pattern, wool-colored concrete, a shepherd’s crook set into the center of the spray area, and plantings of Lamb’s Ear, Sheepberry, and Sheep Laurel.
- Maurice A Fitzgerald Playground
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