Bronx playground renamed after late community advocate

Playground 52 was renamed to “Al Quiñones Playground” on Saturday, May 18, 2024.
Playground 52 was renamed to “Al Quiñones Playground” at a ceremony on Saturday, May 18, 2024.
Photo courtesy Salamanca’s office

A Bronx playground now bears the name of a community and cultural activist who successfully fought to keep Playground 52 and Latin Jazz alive in the South Bronx.

Playground 52 was renamed “Al Quiñones Playground” at a May 18 ceremony hosted by Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr., the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Acacia Network and community leader Freddy Perez Jr.

Quiñones was born along Avenue St. John, steps away from the park that would become his passion and legacy. After witnessing his childhood neighborhood burning and suffering from neglect throughout the late ’70s, in May of 1980, Quiñones took action, joining three other friends to found 52 People for Progress, Inc., an advocacy group that still operates today in partnership with New York City Parks to revitalize, maintain and preserve community parks. 

Playground 52 was renamed to “Al Quiñones Playground” at a ceremony on Saturday, May 18, 2024.Photo courtesy Salamanca’s office

“Honoring Albert ‘Al’ Quiñones with the renaming of Playground 52 serves as a posthumous commendation for a man whose leadership, passion and tenacity created so much good for the Bronx to be proud of,” Salamanca said. “Additionally, it provides future generations the opportunity to learn more about this local champion of equality and Latino culture — which could inspire them to follow his example by serving their own neighborhoods through public service.”

Playground 52 underwent three phases of reconstruction beginning in 2016 as part of a $9.5 million transformation under the Community Parks Initiative, New York City Park’s plan for an equitable park system. The transformation included a new skate park, renovated basketball courts, new bleachers, a larger and ADA-accessible amphitheater with an open dance floor, new play equipment and swings, a renovated comfort station, a new spray shower, trees, plantings and security lighting for evening hours. The reconstruction received funding from former Borough President Rubén Diaz Jr.’s office, the City Council, former Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Community Parks Initiative and the Department of Environmental Protection. 

“We’re thrilled to rename this playground for Al Quiñones, a visionary Bronx resident who was driven by community service and empowerment. His advocacy group 52 People for Progress served as an early example of a community-based organization that collaborated with NYC Parks to help revitalize parkland within their neighborhood,” New York City Parks First Deputy Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa said. “Al Quiñones Playground will serve as a testament to the important changes residents can bring within their own communities, and hopefully inspire future generations to do the same.”

More than 40 years later and over 250,000 hours of volunteer work, Quiñones and 52 People for Progress created a network of some of the best playgrounds and community gardens in the South Bronx. Playground 52 is a testament to Quiñones’ vision, heralded by a philosophy of community service, leadership development and empowerment while providing access to world-class arts, music and culture.

While Quiñones died in 2019, his legacy lives on even after his death.  

“Al Quiñones was a legendary figure in the community, spearheading advocacy group 52 People for Progress, which worked tirelessly to help improve this park. We’re proud that this playground will now bear his name as we continue to celebrate his legacy of making a positive impact on the lives of Bronx residents,” NYC Parks Bronx Borough Commissioner Jessenia Aponte said.

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