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Railroad Park is a small, .73 acre park, including a playground, green space, and abandoned comfort station. Railroad Park gets its name from a railroad track that ran through its location to the Melrose Station located on Park Avenue and East 162nd Street. The park opened in 1902 and was originally named Melrose Park in 1920. The comfort station served as an entry point to Melrose Station beginning in 1929 but was abandoned in the 1970s at the height of the South Bronx’s poverty. In 2001, Henry J. Stern, NYC Parks Commissioner at the time, renamed the park Railroad Park to highlight its relation to Melrose Station.


  • Melrose Station in 1938. (footnote 20)

In the early 1800s, a man named John G. Stephenson designed the New York and Harlem Railroad, which was one of the first railroads in the United States and the first street railway in the world. In 1840, Gouverneur Morris Jr., Vice President of the New York and Harlem Railroad, allowed for the railroad to be built through his property in Melrose. By 1841, the tracks expanded to the Bronx and ran through the location of today’s Railroad Park to Melrose station, located nearby at the intersection of East 162nd Street and Park Avenue. The area around the rail line in Melrose began to populate in 1848 when Morris started selling land along the railroad. Those who bought their land were mostly German immigrants working in Manhattan.

Parts of the New York and Harlem Railroad line were changed “from horsepower to the underground trolley system” in 1897, which led to the closing of the tracks that ran through the location of today’s Railroad Park. Melrose Station remained in use and is still in use today as part of the Metro-North Railroad. In 1898, New York City Parks acquired the piece of land that is today’s Railroad Park. The total size of the land acquired was .83 acres. The small park formally opened four years later in 1902, and was mostly frequented by families with young children.

Since its opening in 1902, the park had not received its first official name. Residents and locals had been calling the place “the one-acre park” and “baby park." Borough President Henry Bruckner titled the site Melrose Park in 1920. In 1929, NYC Parks added a comfort station to Melrose Park which also served as an entry point to Melrose Station on East 162 street.

From 1940 to the 1970s, the rise of poverty in the Bronx due to red-lining and white flight, among other reasons, led to landlord abandonment, crime, and economic problems. At the peak of this turmoil, the comfort station in Railroad Park was abandoned.
 
In 2001, Henry J. Stern, NYC Parks Commissioner at the time, renamed the park Railroad Park to highlight its relation to Melrose Station. Just over a decade later in 2014, residents and locals voiced that they would like to see the comfort station become functional again. In recent years, NYC Parks has partnered with various community organizations, as well as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to program public art at the comfort station in Railroad Park. In October 2017, for example, an art installation organized by DreamYard and titled Faces of Railroad Park opened to the public to “encourage park use and strengthen community connections."


1. Hyatt, E. Clarence, L.L.B. History of New York & Harlem Railroad. 1898. https://ia800604.us.archive.org/31/items/historyofnewyork00hyat/historyofnewyork00hyat.pdf.
2. Bell, Blake A. "Gouverneur Morris Jr. Lived His Later Years, and Died, in Bartow-on-the-Sound in the Town of Pelham." Historic Pelham. August 28, 2014. Accessed April 9, 2018. http://historicpelham.blogspot.com/2014/08/gouverneur-morris-jr-lived-his-later.html.
3.
Hyatt, E. Clarence, L.L.B. History of New York & Harlem Railroad. 1898. https://ia800604.us.archive.org/31/items/historyofnewyork00hyat/historyofnewyork00hyat.pdf.
4.
Hyatt, E. Clarence, L.L.B. History of New York & Harlem Railroad. 1898. https://ia800604.us.archive.org/31/items/historyofnewyork00hyat/historyofnewyork00hyat.pdf.
5.
Skal, Geo. Von. History of German Immigration in the United States and Successful German-Americans and Their Descendants. New York City: F.T. & J.C. Smiley, 1908. https://books.google.com/books?id=LSEtAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=History+of+German+immigration+in+the+United+States+and+successful+German-Americans+and+their+descendants&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjrkNDI7KjYAhXCnOAKHRQAATsQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=Louis%20F.%20Haffen&f=false.
6.
 Hyatt, E. Clarence, L.L.B. History of New York & Harlem Railroad. 1898. https://ia800604.us.archive.org/31/items/historyofnewyork00hyat/historyofnewyork00hyat.pdf.
7.
MTA. "MTA Metro-North Railroad." Accessed April 3, 2018. http://web.mta.info/mnr/html/generalinformation.html.
8.
Department of Parks Borough of the Bronx. (1899). 1899 Annual Report of Department of Parks of the Borough of the Bronx City of New York. New York, NY: M.B. Brown Printing & Binding CO.
http://home2.nyc.gov/html/records/pdf/govpub/4490annual_report_nyc_dept_parks_1899.pdf.
9.
Department of Parks Borough of the Bronx. (1920). 1919 Annual Report of the Department of Parks of the Borough of the Bronx City of New York. New York, NY: M.B. Brown Printing & Binding CO. http://home2.nyc.gov/html/records/pdf/govpub/3475annual_report_bronx_dept_parks_1919.pdf.
10. 
Department of Parks Borough of the Bronx. (1902). 1902 Annual Report of the Department of Parks of the Borough of the Bronx City of New York. New York, NY: M.B. Brown Printing & Binding CO. http://home2.nyc.gov/html/records/pdf/govpub/4298annual_report_nyc_dept_parks_1902_part1.pdf.
11.Board of Alderman. Proceedings of the Board of Alderman of the City of New York from January 1 to March 31, 1919. Vol. I. New York City, NY: Authority of the Board of Alderman, 1919. https://books.google.com/books?id=krZEAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
12.
Board of Alderman. Proceedings of the Board of Alderman of the City of New York from January 1 to March 31, 1919. Vol. I. New York City, NY: Authority of the Board of Alderman, 1919. https://books.google.com/books?id=krZEAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
13. 
NYC Parks. "Railroad Park." NYC Parks. Accessed April 6, 2018. https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/railroad-park/history.
14.
Gonzalez, Evelyn. Bampton Lectures in America : The Bronx : A History. New York, US: Columbia University Press, 2004. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 10 April 2018.
15. 
NYC Parks. "Railroad Park." NYC Parks. Accessed April 6, 2018. https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/railroad-park/history.
16.NYC Parks. "Railroad Park." NYC Parks. Accessed April 6, 2018. https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/railroad-park/history.
17.
NYC Department of City Planning. "Existing Stations: Melrose." Sustainable Communities in the Bronx: Leveraging Regional Rail for Access Growth and Opportunity, May 2014, 104-35. Accessed April 2018. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/plans-studies/sustainable-communities/bmn/bronx_metro_report/melrose.pdf.
18.
NYC Parks. "Public Art Exhibition Opening: Face of Railroad Park by Matthew Westerby and Harold Simmons." NYC Parks. Accessed April 12, 2018. https://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2017/10/15/public-art-exhibition-opening-face-of-railroad-park-by-matthew-westerby-and-harold-simmons.
19.
NYC Parks. "Public Art Exhibition Opening: Face of Railroad Park by Matthew Westerby and Harold Simmons." NYC Parks. Accessed April 12, 2018. https://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2017/10/15/public-art-exhibition-opening-face-of-railroad-park-by-matthew-westerby-and-harold-simmons.
20.Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, The New York Public Library. "Bronx: Park Avenue - 162nd Street (East)" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed April 20, 2018. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-ac99-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99