I came across a playground with an interesting name while wandering through Red Hook, Brooklyn, somewhere within a year or two before launching The New Leaf Journal. The name made me chuckle, but because I did not have anywhere to share it, I neglected to take a photograph with my former trustworthy BlackBerry Classic. On November 27, 2023, I happened upon the Bush Clinton Playground for the first time in a few years. This time, I documented the occasion:

Photograph of the black New York City Parks Department sign for Bush-Clinton Playground in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The Bush-Clinton Playground comes from Bush and Clinton Streets, which it is bound by. The New Leaf Journal features many articles featuring photos from Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens, but not before now from Red Hook (where it terminates on one end near the East River). I am not as familiar with Bush Street because it is limited to Red Hook and not where I usually walk when I go to the neighborhood.

The name Bush-Clinton Playground amused me because our 42nd and 43rd Presidents were George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, respectively. To add to the significance, our 44th President, George W. Bush, made Bill Clinton the second President (see article on the first) to be bracketed by two Presidents having the same last name and the first to be bracketed by two Presidents having the same last name who were not both the same Grover Cleveland.

While I found the name amusing, I knew when I first crossed paths with Bush-Clinton Park that it was not in fact named after Presidents Bush and Clinton. Readers of my recent article on New York’s former Evacuation Day holiday will know that New York has a long history of politically involved Clintons. New York’s Governor during the British evacuation of New York City on November 25, 1783, was a certain George Clinton. George Clinton’s son, DeWitt Clinton, later served as Mayor of New York City and as Governor of New York. He was also the Federalist Party’s nominee for President in 1812. I knew that Clinton Street was named after DeWitt Clinton. I was not sure where Bush Street came from.

A cursory search for Bush-Clinton Playground brought me to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation page for the site. Let us see what it had to say about Bush Street:

Bush Street was most likely named for one of the many prominent Bush families who lived in the neighborhood. Clinton Street is named after De Witt Clinton (1769-1828), who served as the Mayor of New York City, as a member of the United States Senate, and ultimately as the Governor of New York.

While there is no doubt about the origin of Clinton Street, there appears to be some ambiguity about Bush Street. The suspicions raised by the opening paragraph are borne out later in the post:

Because of the many notable figures in the neighborhood with the Bush namesake, it is less clear who exactly lent his name to the street. Tracing back to the earliest colonists, one finds a Hendrick A. Bush who came from Lynden in the Netherlands to settle in New Amsterdam. Dutch immigrants settled the neighborhood of Red Hook in 1636, calling it Roode Hoek due to the reddish color of the soil and the distinctive shape of the land.

It seems like Bush Street was named for a prominent Bush – perhaps Hendrick A. Bush, but we are not entirely sure which Bush.