Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This park draws its name from the nearby Sobel Court. This property was once part of the Fox Hills Golf Course and George W. Vanderbilt Estate, in the Staten Island neighborhood of Fox Hills.
Fox Hills was originally a tiny village, with fishing ponds and wooded paths. Settler Lewis Henry Meyer built his estate here during the 1870s, and named it Fox Hills Manor after his affinity for fox hunting. During the 1890s, the town was often known as Park Hill. Until the turn of the 20th century, the town, which covered parts of Clifton and Concord, remained small and rural. In 1900, however, Staten Island’s first 18-hole golf course was opened. The Fox Hills Golf Club had 200 members at its inception, and was an extremely difficult and popular course for golfers. It attracted attention and prestige, and hosted several regional tournaments. The Great Depression (1929-1940) contributed to a decline in membership and rising property prices, and the Club was forced to close in 1935.
The town shifted gears in 1918, when the Fox Hills Base Hospital was built to serve military patients during World War I (1914-1918). When the hospital opened, completed after only four months of construction, it was the largest Army hospital in the world and had a capacity of 3,000 patients. It cost $2 million to build, and was an 87-building complex with 62 wards. The hospital remained in operation until 1922. During World War II (1939-1945), the Army reopened it after establishing a Prisoner of War camp and a training post along Vanderbilt Avenue. At the close of the war, the hospital was transformed into temporary housing for returning veterans who faced a severe housing shortage upon their return to the United States. The hospital shut down completely in the early 1950s.
The Division of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) assigned .383 acre of Sobel Court to Parks in 1997. DCAS assigned Parks a second portion, covering .45 acre, in 1998. In the park now is a play unit with safety surfacing surrounded by a steel picket fence. There are several different species of trees, including a few pin oaks (Quercus palustris).
In November 1995, Mayor Giuliani contributed $62,000 for an archaeological study of this property. In September 1997, Council Member Jerome X. O’Donovan contributed $36,802 for new sidewalks, new pavements, and general site work renovations. The Mayor also funded renovations in October 1997, giving $28,785 for fences, guide-rails, and site work.
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