The land for this playground in the West Village was once part of the Bleecker family farm, which was ceded to the city in 1809 by Anthony Lispenard Bleecker. The last private occupant of the space was the Stetler Warehouse, owned by businessman Henry Stetler. Stetler made a fortune in the late 19th century warehouse industry, and subsequently lost it during the Great Depression. In 1927 the warehouse was the scene of a sensational rooftop shootout and fire which injured 46 firefighters. An octagonal comfort station immediately to the north, which also once doubled as a bandstand pavilion, was later condemned along with the warehouse to build this park.
In 1959, demand for a safe play space for neighborhood children prodded the city to acquire the Stetler Warehouse south of historic Abingdon Square to make way for a playground, the first in the area. Its development followed the implementation of a new traffic pattern that involved the widening of Bleecker Street and elimination of part of Bank Street. When the playground and sitting area eventually opened in 1966, Parks Commissioner Thomas Hoving, lamenting that community input ought to have been solicited earlier, wryly noted “we would have been spared the years of guerilla warfare over such little but important items as the shape of a bench or a light fixture.”
In 1997, park facilities underwent a large renovation that included new lighting, benches, shrubbery, handicap accessibility, new play equipment and the reinstallation of play equipment that was contributed by the Mollie Parnis Livingston Foundation in 1994. The southern area was slated in 2010 for a renovation that includes improved perimeter plantings and more hospitable seating.
More information here: Then & Now: Bleecker Playground Park - WESTVIEW NEWS