From the City of New York/Parks & Recreation Historical Signs Program:
"This park takes its name from the geographic region of southeastern Manhattan that once had the shape of a hook. The Corlear family, 17th century Dutch landowners, controlled much of the property in this curving landmass.
Today this parkland, located at the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets along the East River Drive, affords stunning views of the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Originally a heavy marshland used by Lenape Native Americans to land their canoes, Dutch settlers of the mid-1600s swiftly took advantage of this area’s graded coastal incline for the loading and unloading of incoming transport vessels.
During the American Revolutionary War Battle of Brooklyn, the British landing and advance upon General George Washington’s (1732-1799) fleeing Colonial Army was impeded by a series of hastily erected earthen barricades on the site. In 1814 the Corlear neighborhood, as it was briefly called before gradually melding into the Lower East Side, underwent renovations as part of a relief project for thousands of Irish immigrants. By leveling the site’s hills for use in landfill along the waterfront, workers made possible the busy docks that soon encouraged industrial and residential growth in the area.
In the 1880s, with the rising tide of immigration, rapid local industrialization, and overburdened tenements, the need for a nearby park space increased. Though the City purchased the land for Corlears Hook Park in 1893, the park was not completed until 1905. Through the late 1930s, the park’s broad, tree-lined promenade held a comfort station, playground, and baseball diamond, but when the City began developing the East River’s shoreline in tandem with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (1882-1945) Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), Corlears Hook Park was reduced in size. Directly reacting to the construction of the F.D.R. Drive in the late 1930s, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) began to draw up and execute plans to take advantage of the new landfill over which the traffic thoroughfare wound.
Over the next few years, Moses’s addition of several properties along the eastern coastline of Manhattan, including East River Park, began to revitalize the Lower East Side. Though Corlears Hook Park initially lost a large portion of land, the addition of an adjoining 57 acre-long East River Park in the 1940s granted the East Side neighborhoods an even larger area in which to walk and play. Connected by several footbridges and winding paths, the adjoining parks now offer softball fields, areas for roller skating and public performances as well as riverfront walkways to the Lower East Side and the East Village.
In 1994 Parks Enforcement Patrol (P.E.P), a division of Parks responsible for ensuring the safe use of parkland, moved its Manhattan base of operations from Battery Park to Corlears Hook Park. From this base P.E.P. oversees parks south of 42nd Street.
In 1995 Corlears Hook Park’s playground underwent renovations. Sponsored by Council Member Antonio Pagan, the $79,000 renovation upgraded the play equipment and added safety surfacing to the play area."
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