Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
Located on 79th Street between 68th Road and 69th Avenue in west central Queens, this playground takes its name from the surrounding neighborhood of Middle Village. Eliot Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard, Cooper Avenue, the Long Island Railroad, and the Lutheran Cemetery bound Middle Village. A small portion of the neighborhood, between Woodhaven Boulevard and Richmond Hill, was developed during the 1820s as a crossroad between the rapidly emerging townships of Kew Gardens and Forest Hills. The name Middle Village refers to the neighborhood’s position between the two townships.
During the 1840s, famine and political unrest in Europe precipitated massive immigration to the United States. The flat land and fertile soil of Middle Village, and the industrial boom in nearby Newtown and Maspeth, were attractive to immigrants. The population grew, and in 1850 the community adopted the name Middle Village to distinguish it from Maspeth.
In May 1851, the New York City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting burials in Manhattan. Many religious denominations purchased land in Queens, particularly in Middle Village, for cemeteries. In 1852, a Manhattan Lutheran church led by Reverend F. W. Gessenhainer bought several farms, totaling 225 acres, north and south of Metropolitan Avenue, and set them aside for use as a cemetery. Surrounded, as it was, by cemeteries and by Juniper Swamp (which was filled in 1915 and became Juniper Valley Park), the community had little room for growth. By 1902, the population had reached only 1,300.
Farms continued to dominate the region through World War I. During the 1920s, a need for housing spurred development: rows of one-family, detached houses were built near Juniper Valley Park and Metropolitan Avenue, which remains the area’s commercial center.
Between 1935 and 1938, Parks leased this property from the Gorbess Realty Corporation. In April 1938, the City of New York purchased one parcel of the property for $10,450. A month later, the city acquired the second parcel through condemnation, and Parks assumed jurisdiction over both areas. In July 1994, Middle Village Playground received a $294,000 reconstruction sponsored by Mayor Giuliani. The playground now features two handball courts, two basketball half-courts, a boccie court, swings, modular play equipment, benches, a water fountain, and a spray shower.
- Middle Village Playground
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