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New Paltz 101: Hasbrouck Park

Hasbrouck Park still has the WPA baseball field built in 1936, as well as gazebo and playground.
Hasbrouck Park still has the WPA baseball field built in 1936, as well as gazebo and playground.
Terence P Ward

Donated to New Paltz Village in 1923, Hasbrouck Park has been used for public gatherings as far back as 1906. Today the park is used for a number of festivals and public gatherings, and has numerous facilities which are open to the public during daylight hours. Officially named Jean Hasbrouck Memorial Park after the original patentee of the land it occupies, Hasbrouck has seen a number of changes to its character over the years.

The earliest record of the "Varick lot" being used publicly comes from a New Paltz Independent story in 1906, which mentions a festival that included, "an acrobatic performance, exhibition by trained dogs, etc." The parcel was donated to the Village in 1923 by Mrs. Laura Hasbrouck Varick, a direct descendant of Jean Hasbrouck, an act that generated considerable excitement in the community. "A great many of our people may have their individual views regarding the location of this parcel and its adaptibility for park purposes," according to an editorial in the Independent. "They should however keep in mind, before voicing their ideas too freely, that it is more than we have had since 1677 and a step in the right direction."

Many ideas about the new park were indeed proposed, with tennis courts and a swimming pool being some of the first projects. "Mrs. Hasbrouck also desires that the land be beautified as a tribute to our soldiers of the World War," the Independent noted in one article, and in 1925 a Howitzer was donated by a veterans' group to that end. (The gun remained until 1942, when it was melted down for use in the war effort.) Only six years after the park was dedicated a proposal was floated to site the new high school building there, but the state was concerned about a "cloud on title" created by the fact that the land was permanently dedicated to park purposes in its deed.

Hasbrouck received a baseball field as a Depression-era WPA project, and by 1941 it had a playground staffed by attendants. Difficulty with the park's upkeep led to a 99-year lease of the land to the State of New York; the lease was ended early in 1983 after a fair amount of controversy about the control of the park. A bandstand (more commonly referred to today as "the Gazebo") was built in 1992 after local real estate agents spearheaded a fund drive for the structure.

The present wooden castle playground has been used for several years as the site of "Haunted Hasbrouck," and throughout the warmer months Hasbrouck sees a number of public gatherings which take advantage of the onsite electricity to provide amplified live music. The tennis/basketball courts still have signs indicating an ice rink, but according to Mayor Terry Dungan no ice has been made in recent years "in part because of the weather, and in part because it's a dying art" to create skateable ice. According to Dungan it entails a fire hose being sprayed upwards so it falls on fresh snow, creating a crust of ice that can be then built up into a rink. "If you turn the hose on the pavement, it will just run off," before it freezes, he explained.

Hasbrouck Park has seen a rise in vandalism in recent decades, and some of its facilities are not in the best repair, but it continues to be used by community members throughout the year.

Check-in to Hasbrouck Park on Foursquare.  It's between the college and Peace Park.

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