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Vesuvio Playground: A Cherished SoHo Open Space

SoHo Broadway Community: The history of a park in a neighborhood with limited usable public space

In a neighborhood with limited public parkland, that which does exist is well-loved by the community. Vesuvio Playground, one of SoHo’s only designated parks, was constructed from 1920 to 1960, and serves as a lively space for SoHo’s residential community as well as those visiting the neighborhood with children.

During this time period, the Parks Department bought neighboring parcels of land and slowly erected its recognizable swings, basketball court, playground, and public pool. On its opening, the park was originally named Thompson Street Playground, but renamed Vesuvio Playground in the 1990s in honor of Anthony Dapolito, a prominent Community Board 2 member and preservation activist who was the owner Vesuvio Bakery.

Photo by Mike Albans/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The park is equipped with a variety of facilities—much of it targeting younger ages and parents. Its renovations in the 1980s further improved upon its children’s play area with new climbing equipment, swings, benches, and tables. While parts of the park are currently closed for repairs to a nearby façade, the familiar sights and sounds of the playground will always remain dear to longtime SoHo residents.

SoHo lacks much of the park or green space that is seen in other neighborhoods, with almost all of the neighborhood devoted to buildings and streets. The SoHo Broadway District itself lacks any designated outdoor space designated for passive relaxation or recreation. In the past, the SoHo Broadway corridor had a small pocket of greenery at 433 Broadway, the original site of the European American Bank. The “hexagonal, freestanding, quasi-colonial building” was encompassed by a green plot of land, serving as our district’s only park-like space until it was demolished in 2002.

As heard loud and clear during the City’s Envision SoHo/NoHo process and ongoing SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan meetings, there is a high demand for more usable public space, parks, and greenery in SoHo among the neighborhood’s residents, workers, and visitors. To explore possibilities for addressing this need in the SoHo Broadway District, the Initiative is currently developing public realm vision and framework plan. Please take our public realm survey and share it with your neighbors to help shape this vision!

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