Galileo Playground in Morris Heights honors the famous Italian physicist, astronomer and philosopher, Galileo Galilei. Two thousand years ago people thought of Earth as the center of the universe. It was perceived that Earth was stable and the stars hung down from the sky. But Galileo was among the first scientists who proposed the idea that Earth was actually moving and spinning around the sun. In the 17th Century, Galileo’s idea was considered a heresy and he was forced to renounce his discovery. He was placed under house arrest through the end of his life. Although Bronx residents at the playground that day weren’t talking about the history behind the name, they did say they and their kids love the park.
By Anna Teregulova
A majority of playgrounds in New York City bear names of nearby streets, schools and districts. Some honor social activists, politicians, local and world-known historic figures, inventors and even poets. But there are also a number of playgrounds with names that sound more intriguing. Maybe they’re funny or silly, or maybe they’re just not so ordinary.
The Oracle Playground in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, adds a pinch of magic realism to the list of city playground names. It might inspire thoughts about an illusory world with mystic fortunetellers. That’s because the playground was named after Adelphi Street, which runs along the playground’s west side. The ancient Greeks believed the town of Delphi was the center of the flat world. It was a home to the oracle of the earth goddess Adelphi. The playground was named after the goddess 16 years ago after an extensive renovation, according to the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation. The renovations included the “Greek Key” design of interlocking boxes located along the fence and a sculpture of a Trojan horse, a tribute to the ancient Greek epic poem “The Odyssey”.
Another intriguing story can be found behind the Fountain Of Youth Playground in the South Bronx. The bewitching name honors Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish explorer who went on an expedition to find waters of eternal youth in the 16th century. De Leon failed the mission, but became the first European to set foot on American soil, in modern-day Florida.
“Boasting a Floridian theme, the playground features artificial tropical trees, water springing from the mouths of alligators in the sprinklers, and uniquely colored pink and green play equipment,” according to the Department of Parks and Recreation website.
The Vesuvio Playground in Manhattan may trick visitors into thinking that its name also has a historic reference. However, the name of the playground has nothing to do with the Vesuvius volcano eruption. The playground was named after the famous Vesuvio Bakery on Prince Street, which closed in 2009.
Some playgrounds were cleverly named to contain a hint about their location. Besides the proximity to the nearby Fulton Fish Market, the name of the Fish Playground was derived from the first letters of the streets that surrounded the park – F from Fulton Street, S from Saratoga Avenue and H from Herkimer Street – formed FSH.
A playground whose name has a similar origin is Vidalia Park, located between Vyse and Daly avenues in the Bronx. The park’s name adopted the letter V from Vyse, the letters DAL from Daly and, combined together, the name became Vidalia, which is also a type of an onion grown in Georgia.
Crack is Wack Playground was named after a mural, painted on the handball court walls 27 years ago by the artist Keith Haring. It was his way of calling attention to “the damage drugs can inflict on community welfare,” according to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Babi Yar Triangle commemorated a horrifying massacre of more than 33,000 Jews by Nazi soldiers during World War II in the Babi Yar ravine in Ukraine.
The city’s playgrounds have various names that honor multiple people, events and times. But sometimes it’s the hidden stories they tell that are most memorable.