Strange names for some city playgrounds

On 17th Street and Avenue C east of Stuyvesant Town is a little spit of land called “Murphy’s Brother’s Playground.”

So who was Murphy and why did his brother get a playground named after him?

It goes back to when this area was part of the old Gas House District and Tammany Hall ruled Manhattan politics.

John J. Murphy was the son of poor Irish immigrants who made a fortune in construction in the late 19th century and became a local politician.

But he owed a lot of his good fortune to his brother, a local saloon keeper and eventual bigwig at Tammany Hall named “Silent Charlie” Murphy.

In 1985, what was then Murphy Park underwent a name change to acknowledge Silent Charlie.

Though why Parks officials didn’t use his actual name is a mystery. Who wants to only be known as someone’s brother?

Poor Richard’s Playground, on Third Avenue and 108th Street, is a nod to the Poor Richard of Poor Richard’s Almanac, aka Benjamin Franklin.

Why pay homage to Ben Franklin? The playground is next to the city-owned Benjamin Franklin Houses.

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10 Responses to “Strange names for some city playgrounds”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I used to go Murphy’s Brother’s Playground in the middle 60s with my girlfriend and make out. It was a nice playground in the evenings, very deserted and the only intrusion you felt was from the cars as they surged upwards or downhill on an incline of the East River Drive. In the evenings it was a good spot for a quickie. Of course we could have sat along the benches by the river but it was always peopled by starers looking at what we were doing. And in the mid 1960s just imagine the garter belts and nylons she had on, oh boy…

  2. Sean Says:

    Someone at the Parks Deparment has problems with punctuation. What’s up with the two apostrophes, when really none is required?

  3. Sean Says:

    In other words, wouldn’t “Murphy Brothers Playground” be correct?

    “Poor Richard’s” makes sense since it is the title of the almanac, but the Murphy Brothers don’t own the playground. On the west side, e.g., there is a “Winston Churchill Playground, not “Winston Churchill’s” playground.

    If someone from Parks is reading this, get it fixed and improve your image at the same time.

  4. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    It’s been called that for years. I remember as a kid when I first saw the sign thought it was odd but kinky. Was in the 70s when they hung the sign. I liked it but who am I to say?

  5. Sean Says:

    Hmmm, I see MIke.

    Careful re-reading of wildnewyork’ text seems to indicate that it was dedicated to just one of the brothers. Originally, I thought it was dedicated to both.

    It is a bit confusing. Why would only one brother be named, if both were involved in politics?

    Pretty quirky alright. Anyone from Parks out there with more information on the name change?

  6. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Take a look at this one:

    http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M059/

  7. Sean Says:

    OK, now I’m really confused. Are my reading comprehension skills so poor, or, as I claimed earlier, someone at Parks can’t punctuate correctly.

    E.g., “Parks representatives, … gathered to rededicate the renovated playground and to celebrate the brothers Murphy: Charles Francis and John J.”

    That seems to claim the park was named for both brothers, thus it should be “Murphy Brothers Playground”. I cannot recall any park dedication name using the possessive, q.v., Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, or Winston Churchill Park or Seravelli Park. None of them have a possessive. Why would the Murphy Brothers get the possessive? Makes no sense.

    Further, if it is dedicated to a single Murphy brother, which one is that, Charles or John?

    Very confusing to me. Remember, in this City government we have sign makers who manufactured sign for Bleeker (sic) Street and another for TriBeCa Square that erroneously credits the coinage of the neighborhood’s name to realtors instead of the resident activists who actually named it.

    Oh well. Let’s solve the problem and just call the park “Murphy’s Law Park”, which clearly indicates what is going on there.

  8. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Probably meant them both but someone made a grammatical error and it remains until this day. Try to fix it by telling Parks Dept? Forget it!

  9. petey Says:

    as it reads it’s dedicated to one murphy brother and you can pick which one you want. but the parks department blurb suggests it’s dedicated to two murphy brothers, so then there’s a punctuation error, the frequent kind where a writer doesn’t know how to use apostrophes and inserts one before every final -s just in case. i like the first explanation, it’s clever.

  10. Carol King Says:

    fascinating! I love Murphy’s Brother’s playground. I’ll have to visit that one day.

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