Anning Smith Prall (1870-1937) was born to William Henry Prall and Josephine Rebecca Cartwright. The Pralls had lived on Staten Island since 1670, and Anning Smith boldly added to that legacy by serving three times as President of the Board of Education and as Congressman for Staten Island.
As a boy, Prall attended Staten Island public schools. Later in life, he invested himself professionally in the future of the Island. As head of the Staten Island Savings Bank’s Mortgage Loan Department, he held interests in local real estate. During World War I (1914-1918), he was Vice President of Cosgrove and Company, he sold coal to the City at the bargain price of $5 a ton. From 1919 to 1921 he served as President of the New York Board of Education. Later, acting on his interest in finance, Prall joined the Board of Taxes and Assessments in 1922. Until he was elected to Congress in 1923, he had never lived more than a mile from his birthplace in Port Richmond.
After his final term in Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) appointed Prall chairman of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) radio division. In that role, he spoke out against radio censorship and pressed one station to air a speech by the Communist presidential candidate. His commitment to free speech, an implicit theme in his work as school board president, was thus articulated on a national level. Prall died at age 67 in West Brighton, Staten Island.
In 1960, the Board of Estimate (predecessor of the City Council) assigned this land to be jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education. In 1965 the two agencies officially acquired the semicircular parcel of land, bounded by Elizabeth Street, Forest Avenue, Broadway and Clove Lake Place, and they opened this playground on April 15, 1972. Today, the perimeter of the park curves with Forest Avenue and its edges are outlined with plantings: pine trees, evergreen bushes, grass, ivy and London planetrees.
This park is designed for both active and passive use. Game tables, and handball and basketball courts that double as a softball field, invite athletic activity. Chain link and iron picket fences, cobblestone tree pits and benches preserve an atmosphere of rest. Stairs and ramp ways connect the playground to the pool and an additional set of stairs serve as bleachers. In 1997, Parks completed a $56,500 renovation funded by Borough President Guy V. Molinari in which the sidewalks, paths, and pavements were reconstructed.
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