Old township park still fresh in activities
by Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer
Teaneck Suburbanite, June 25, 2008, p. 4
Amman Park may be one of Teaneck's best-kept secrets.
Located in the oldest section of the township, Amman Park is also one of its oldest parks, having been used continuously as a public park since 1937.
The 5.29-acre property in the southeast corner of Teaneck is divided into three distinct sections. A baseball field and a soccer field and adjacent basketball and tennis courts border Fort Lee Road. South of the athletic fields, a walking path slopes down from Lees Avenue, separating the fields from a play area for younger children equipped with a wading pool and modern playground equipment. East of the playground is a shady grove containing a variety of large trees. A creek meanders through the grove, disappearing into a culvert at Teaneck Road and ultimately draining into the remnant of swamps that once covered much of the eastern part of town. Benches and barbecue stands make the grove an attractive place for picnics.
As the only park in Teaneck's southeast quadrant, Amman is a Mecca for neighborhood children who otherwise would have to cross Teaneck Road to reach to Hawthorne Park, half a mile away.
Southeast Teaneck was farmland throughout the 19th and early 20th century. The property that became Amman Park was part of the estate of William Walter Phelps, possibly the estate's southern boundary.
In 1935, the property was purchased by Edmund Amman, a developer whose holdings included land in Bogota, Ridgewood and Teaneck. Amman died in 1937 and bequeathed the parcel to the township with the provision that it be used as a public park. The land was so used for 29 years before being formally dedicated as a township park in 1966.
The Phelps estate once included most of what is today Teaneck. When the estate broke up in the 1930s, developers converged upon Teaneck.
"They rushed in wanted to cash in on all this land," noted George Reskakis, chair of the township's parks, playgrounds and recreation advisory board, noting that real estate offices were set up on Teaneck Road.
Teaneck was especially attractive to development because of the newly opened George Washington Bridge, and in 1935 the township's first master plan was drafted to address the threat of over-development..
"That master plan ultimately led to the Teaneck we see today," Reskakis said.
The southeast was an area especially attractive to developers. Reskakis explained, because of the proximity of Fort Lee Road, than called the Fort Lee Turnpike, which was the only road that crossed the meadowlands and went to Fort Lee. DeGraw Avenue at the time ended at Willow Street. Beyond Willow Street were the swamps.
Part of the Amman Park grove may have once been the site of a house, Reskakis speculated. Pieces of stone that may have formed the foundation are embedded in the ground, south of the creek.
The grove contains a variety species, including hickery, beech and chestnut trees. Reskakis noted that Amman and Phelps park were candidates for the township's first arboretum. Phelps won out, but the PPRAB is considering Amman for a second arboretum.
The 1966 dedication stone located in the playground is missing its plaque, which was most likely stolen. Vandalism and graffiti are problems in all township parks.
"One of the most important things we can do is to educate our children not to participate in this kind of behavior," Reskakis said. "Then in a peer presure situation they won't see it as a way to be cool."