Northerleigh Park is among the most cherished of Staten Island's many natural treasures. Locate between North and Burnside Avenues, and Shaw Place, in the neighborhood of Westerleigh, the park is an emblem of the pride that local residents take in their community.
Westerleigh was once the headquarters of the National Prohibition Party. This 19th-century group called for vehement opposition to the use of alcohol in any way. Beginning as a summer meeting place for the party in the late 1880s, Westerleigh developed slowly into a residential neighborhood. Roads and sidewalks were laid at the turn of the 20th century, and a community school was built. Today the Westerleigh neighborhood remains much the same as it was 100 years ago. One-family Victorian, Dutch and English styles homes still line the streets and zoning regulations that prevent large businesses from moving to the area, have so far been successful in preserving its small town feel.
The City purchased the original three acres of Northerleigh Park in 1907 from the National Prohibition Park Company. Largely undeveloped at the time, most of the property remained undisturbed woodland for the next 60 years. Although there was some talk of using the land as a station for the Staten Island railroad in 1925, the idea never came to fruition. The Board of Estimate assumed control over the site in 1854, assigning it to Parks in 1963.
In the 1960s, a community group by the name of the Westerleigh Little Guys & Gals began to develop a part of the site as a baseball field. The Westerleigh Little Guys & Gals used the land by seasonal permit.Through their efforts, the proposed ball field soon became a reality in the southwest section of the new North Avenue Park. In time, Parks began to maintain the field in collaboration with the little league. It was named Charles J. McClaughry Sr. Memorial Field in 1999. McClaughry (1936-1997) was a Staten Island native and the founder of the Westerleigh Little Guys & Gals league. A father of six, Mr. McClaughry lived just behind Northerleigh Park.
In 1986, street rearrangement added about half an acre to the park. Although Parks gave up 17,830 square feet of the park property, including six houses left standing from the original purchase, the park gained 22,187 square feet of the land from adjoining lots.
Northerleigh Park received extensive renovations in 1989 with $437,000 in funding from the office of Borough President Ralph J. Lamberti. Additions included new fencing, sidewalks, security lighting, drinking fountains, and shrubbery. The ball field was upgraded, with storage areas provided for team equipment, and improved storm drainage. Originally named North Avenue Park, Commissioner Henry J. Stem renamed it Northerleigh Park in 1996, a name inspired by its surrounding neighborhood. Today, the fence displays the placards of the many local teams that call the park their own.
Courtesy of the NYC Parks Department