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Former Phipps Playground Now a Public Park: Van Bramer

Phipps Playground at 50-02 39th Ave.

Sept. 16, 2019 By Christian Murray

The City has bought a large property on the corner of 50th Street and 39th Avenue and will soon start work on converting it into a public park.

The property, the former Phipps Playground, was officially acquired by the city on Thursday.

Details of the transaction–such as the price paid–were not known at time of publication.

The 10,000 square foot site will become a public park/playground named in honor of the late firefighter Michael Davidson. Davidson, who was killed fighting a blaze in Harlem in March 2018, was raised at the Phipps Housing Complex, which is located across the street from the playground on 39th Avenue.

“I am thrilled that this is finally happening,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who anticipates the park/playground will open in 2 to 3 years. “This will be a wonderful playground, great addition—and incredibly meaningful.”

The former playground has been vacant for decades and once served children who lived at the Phipps Housing Complex. It is one of the last depression-era playgrounds in New York and some of the remnants of the old park, like a shed and swings, are still seen today.

Phipps owned the property until 2007 before selling it to DBH, a development company.

Michael Davidson, who died at 37 after responding to a five-alarm fire in Harlem earlier this year. (FDNY)

DBH put forward a highly-unpopular plan to develop the site in 2013, which included the installation of an aluminaire house and eight accompanying residential units there. The former playground is located within the confines of the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

The developer, however, was unsuccessful in moving the idea forward after the community board, local officials, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission shot down the project.

Around this time, Van Bramer started working on securing city funds to buy the property and turn it into a public park. In 2016, he secured $3 million to acquire and renovate it.

The department of Citywide Administrative Services later stepped in to negotiate a sale.

Van Bramer secured another $2.5 million in the city’s 2020 budget to go toward the renovation.

Van Bramer said he wanted to make sure there are ample funds to make sure the park/playground is overhauled properly.

“This is a whole new park and we want it done right,” he said.

The council member said it is rare for the city to buy property and build new parks.

“This has always been a privately-owned lot—so it means a lot to me that it is now a public park and named after Michael Davidson,” Van Bramer said.

Davidson’s death came while the city was in the midst of approving the purchase of the site.

Sunnyside resident Eileen Connolly-Goodwin, who was next-door neighbors with the Davidson family at Phipps Houses in the 80s, was an advocate for naming the park in his honor. She recalls Michael and her two children playing together at the playground in the 1980s.

“I cannot think of anybody more fitting to have the park named after than a man who died in the line of duty, leaving behind a beautiful wife with four children,” Connolly-Goodwin said.

She said she recalls seeing Michael as a child in the playground.

The council member said he attended Davidson’s funeral, and was touched to learn of the fallen firefighter’s love for the neighborhood and active involvement in the community.

“Naming the new playground after him is very fitting,” Van Bramer said.

Phipps Playground

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15 Comments

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woodsider

That long to do something about it and now a bit longer to actually do it…and for what? Not like it’s gonna be kept nice anyway with the tremendous amount of riffraff flocking to our neighborhoods. Bums and the lovely teenagers who dont seem to attend school and pass their time hanging out at Doughboy now will for sure be moving on over there. Probably better off being the dump that it is now instead of a public park. Yikes.

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Khalid Mohammed

It will be an eye sore when it becomes a public park. Slugs will it make it they’re new hang out spots .

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Anonymous

Very happy it is names after the Fireman from the Phipps. BIG CONCERN IS THAT IT WILL BECOME LIKE THE LITTLE PARK BY THE FIRE HOUSE ON 51 STREET WITH DRUNKS ON THE BENCHES ALL NIGHT ACROSS FROM THE PHIPPS!! What is the plan right now to prevent this from happening?

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Princess

Well, we have that community policing, right. You know, when the cops walk the beat, and the cars patrol the area….not.

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ak_nyc

Great job Jimmy! You made it happen and named the park after a much deserving individual. Kudos to you.

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David

Bxgrl- There is only one guy posting all those posts to JVB, he’s just posting under multiple posting names and hashtags.

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