Photo: NYC Parks / Malcolm Pinckney

First renovation in over 20 years completely upgraded the playground

NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue yesterday joined DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Assembly Member Manny De Los Santos, Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, Community Board 12, and community members to cut the ribbon on the completely renovated Monsignor Kett Playground in Inwood. This project is the largest reinvestment the City has made in this vital open space.   

“I’m thrilled to unveil the completely renovated Monsignor Kett Playground in Inwood, home to the Dyckman basketball tournament and a beloved gathering place for the community,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “Representing the largest reinvestment the City has made in this site to date, it is our hope that the modernized play equipment, permanent bleachers, and upgraded amenities will better serve residents and visitors in the decades to come.”    

“These upgrades to Monsignor Kett Playground are a huge benefit to current Inwood residents and future families moving to this neighborhood, providing a beautiful place for people gather,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. ”Our agency continues to improve traffic safety for our children, while walking, biking, and playing together —especially near schools and playgrounds in Inwood. I thank Mayor Adams and Commissioner Donoghue for their steadfast commitment to improving Inwood!”  

“This is more than just a renovated playground – it’s an investment in equity, health, and resiliency for Inwood. From play spaces that meet different accessibility and sensory needs, to features that support healthy lifestyles, to landscaping that mitigates climate change challenges, the new Monsignor Kett Playground is the type of modern open space our city needs,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.  

The Monsignor Kett reconstruction project totally upgraded the playground with brand new features for the community. The playground has been completely redone with modernized play areas, including equipment for all ages and abilities, and a small separate area for quieter play as requested by the community. The spray shower and handball courts have also been upgraded, and lighting has been updated throughout the park and for the basketball courts. There is also a new space for adult fitness, and a separate area for calisthenics and group exercise activities.   

The basketball courts have new colorful cushioned surfacing and permanent high-steel bleachers, supporting the continuation of the dynamic Dyckman basketball tournament. The Dyckman basketball tournament runs for 10 weeks in the summer and has run since 1990.   

The renovated playground features many sustainable design components, including increased permeability and native vegetation, additional shade trees, uses of recycled materials, energy efficient light fixtures, and more. The design plans for climate change resilience by locating critical infrastructure above high-water levels, and investing in flood-resilient materials in low-lying areas.  

In accordance with Parks’ Parks Without Borders design approach, the new park design envelopes the playground in greenspace, lowers perimeter fencing, and establishes a grand welcoming entrance at the corner of West 204 Street and 10 Avenue. The site will also have a new public restroom facility, including a gender neutral bathroom, with construction starting this fall.   

This $9.5 million project was funded by the Office of the Mayor through the Inwood Neighborhood Rezoning. 

This land was acquired by the City of New York for the building of the Dyckman Houses public housing project in 1948 and transferred to Parks for the construction of a playground to serve the residents of the Dyckman Houses. At its opening in 1949, this park was designated the Dyckman Houses Playground, which was shortened to Dyckman Playground in 1986. It included a variety of play equipment, sports courts, and a square park house with a circular roof.   

An extensive rehabilitation of the playground in 1995 added two full-size basketball courts, benches, swing sets, a play sculpture of a seal, and colorful modular play equipment, among other amenities. The park house, which doubles as a comfort station, was also renovated.  

In 1997, this playground was named for Monsignor Francis J. Kett (1895-1969), pastor of nearby Saint Jude’s Roman Catholic Church. On August 21, 1949, Kett held the inaugural mass for his new parish, the Church of St. Jude, at the Loews Dyckman Theatre on Sherman Avenue and 207th Street. Within the parish’s first year, Monsignor Kett founded an athletic association and a Catholic Youth Organization. He also raised funds for the construction of St. Jude’s School. Mayor Robert F. Wagner and Auxiliary Bishop of New York Reverend Stephan A. Donahue addressed a crowd of 3,000 at the school’s groundbreaking ceremony on December 9, 1951. The school opened on March 2, 1953 and his Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman presided at the blessing and dedication on May 17th. Monsignor Kett died on January 9, 1969, leaving behind a thriving parish and a legacy of devoted service. 

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