James Renner

 J. Hood Wright Park located between 173rd and 176th Streets, From Fort Washington Avenue to Haven Avenues has been an oasis for the community that was in need of park space. The park is named for the former owner of the site J. Hood Wright (1836-1894).  He was a banker and financier from Philadelphia whose home was located within the 6 and 1/2 acre park.

 According to the historical records the Wright home was located on the western side 
of the park near Haven Avenue.  In 1883 Wright had been chief contributor to what is now the Washington Heights Branch of the New York Public Library.  A plaque was placed at the top 
of a flight of stairs at the entrance of the branch that honors Wright for his philanthropic participation in changing the status of the branch from a subscription library to a free library.  

 Wright was also instrumental in the establishment of a hospital in the Manhattanville section of New York City.  It was first known as the Manhattan Dispensary Hospital located at 131st Street and Tenth (Amsterdam) Avenue.  The hospital was named for Wright in 1895 and was later to become Knickerbocker Hospital.

 The Wright property was acquired in 1925 by the City of New York for the specific purpose of a park and playground since the nearest playground at the time was at 153rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue.  In the original deed there was a clause that stated that part of the park was to be used as a facility for the recreation of senior citizens.

 The Octagonal Room was the centerpiece of a complex built in 1935 with two wings serving as restrooms that were connected by curved loggia.  Originally the east wing was the men’s room and west was the women’s room.  Since the renovation of the park the west wing houses both.  

 Up until the late 1960’s there had been a concession stand which was located near the Danziger Senior Center. The center was built in 1959 for seniors to come and socialize in the park.  In 1966 two recreation rooms and restrooms were added on to the present structure.  The center was named for Frederick J. Danziger who was president of the senior center in the park in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Now known as the J. Hood Wright Recreational Center it has facilities for physical fitnesson the premesis.

 The park had a wading pool with a sprinkler. It was replaced with a playground that has a model of the George Washington Bridge with a walkway for the children.  There are slides and climbing bars that are also part of the play area. Also in the park is a dog run, baseball field, handball, volleyball and basketball courts.

 The scenic overlook at the northwest corner of the park is a place where people can view the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. The overlook has a monolithic sculpture made of magnesium and zinc blocks that will fuse together in the year 3000 A. D. (which happens to be the name of it).  It was installed in 1974 and was sculpted by Terry Fugate-Wilcox.

 On Haven Avenue under the overlook are rock formations that appear to be a small cave similar to those found in Inwood Hill Park.  At the southwest corner of the park is a rock outcropping of Manhattan Schist.

 The park has been mentioned in the book “Florry of Washington Heights.” by 
Steve Katz.  The story is about a teenager growing up in Washington Heights especially in the immediate vicinity of  J. Hood Wright Park during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

 Recently the park had been allocated $2,051,000  with the help from Manhattan 
Borough President Ruth Messinger and City Councilman Guillermo Linares.  These monies 
went to capital improvements of the park such as revamping of the senior center to make it an inter-generational center for all ages.  In addition park improvements were made as well such 
as the new playground where the wading pool had been. New benches known as the Christie Forsythe benches (aka the World’s Fair benches) now grace the park.

 The politicians have been working hard to keep the park diversified for the residents.  Ruth Rudder of Friends of J. Hood Wright Park had done a demographic and ethnic survey of the use of the park.  With the ever changing community the park stands as a stable force to keep the neighborhood together.

 Friends of J. Hood Wright is a group of neighborhood residents who not only use the 
park but are involved with community events, clean-ups and gardening within the park.   The group was organized to save and improve the environment of the park in a time when J. Hood Wright Park was being threatened with fiscal neglect.  They can be reached at (212) 928-3327.

 The Recreation Center is is located on the Fort Washington Avenue side of the park at 173rd Street.   Orlando Sanders is the Director and  Stephanie Harris is the Assistant Director of the center.  The center can be reached at (212) 927-1514.  For more information on this and other parks in New York City log-on to www.nyc.gov/parks.  

 The Washington Heights Branch of the New York Public Library is located at 1000 Saint Nicholas Avenue at 160th Street.  For information on the branch please call (212) 923-6045 or log on to www.nypl.org.


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