Highland Park is situated on a high plateau that commands stunning views of East New York, Woodhaven, and the Rockaways, mid-town Manhattan, the Jamaica Bay and Atlantic Ocean. In 1856 the Ridgewood Reservoir was built by the City of Brooklyn on land acquired here.
In 1891 the City of Brooklyn purchased the land surrounding the reservoir for park purposes and Highland Park was developed. It was initially known as Ridgewood Park. Part of this 141-acre park, including Ridgewood Reservoir at its crest, is in Queens County.
As of 2010 census, there were 30,841 people residing in the area. The median income for a household in the village is $38,565.
The Brooklyn Department of Parks carried out significant improvements to the property and built a combined music stand and tool house, a shelter house, a rustic bridge, and two rustic arbors. A new lake with a fountain was created and a swamp reclaimed for the site of a flower garden. This flower garden was one of the most unique ones at that time in any of the parks hereabouts. They laid out roads and footpaths and landscaped the grounds in 1905.
The property was extended to the south by purchasing the Schenck estate, which included a Dutch-style farmhouse that was built in 1705 by Johannes Schenck who had emigrated from Holland to the colony of New York in 1683 and worked as a teacher and town clerk in Flatbush, New York, and Bushwick. His descendants occupied it until 1906 when it was sold to the Parks Department. The farmhouse served as a club house, a lunch room, and a storage facility for Highland Park till it was removed after 1940.
Highland Park took its present shape when a third parcel to the west was acquired from the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity. The park which straddled both counties became a favorite spot for the people of Brooklyn and Queens. There are facilities to play football and baseball on the fields and there are 28 tennis courts and other playgrounds. In winter when the pond freezes skating has always been a popular pastime. An aquatic garden with water lilies and other water plants was created in 1907. There are special children’s farm gardens which were planted in 1915. The Dawn of Glory World War I monument by sculptor Pietro Montana was dedicated in 1925.
The neighborhood had well to do families living there when it first developed. As is the case with neighboring East New York the residential areas were over the years occupied by later immigrants. Van Sicklen and Schenck Courts, named for early Dutch landowning families, are just off Jamaica Avenue in Highland Park, north of New Lots These are stately properties which bring back memories of a bye gone era.
Today Highland Park is home to a large mix of ethnic races and exhibits a great social cultural and economic diversity. The local YMCA located opposite the park is very active.