This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.
The name of ABC Playground reflects both its location at the northern edge of Alphabet City and its proximity to Public School 20, the Anna Silver School. The newer, more imaginative appellation was bestowed upon the playground after a $250,000 improvement was made to the playground in October 1998. This improved playground now consists of modern play units, animal art, painted line games, a spray shower area, basketball hoops, and new safety surfacing. ABC Playground is in a historically significant location for park development in New York City. The first permanent playground was built by the City in 1903, and was located in nearby Seward Park at Essex Street and East Broadway. The Lower East Side has served as a gateway to America, and is rich in cultural traditions. It was first settled by free black farmers, and since the 19th century, an influx of Irish, German, Italian, Eastern European Jews, Russians, Romanians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Greeks, and Poles added to the cultural mix of the area. The neighborhood became the first racially integrated section of the city after World War II, when many African Americans and Puerto Ricans moved to the Lower East Side, and in the 1980s, a new influx of immigrants from China, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, India, and Bangladesh joined the neighborhood to render the Lower East Side a veritable cornucopia of cultures. The land on which the ABC Playground was built was bought by the City of New York from the Public School Society for one dollar in 1853, and was assigned to the Department of Parks in 1934 to be used as a playground for small children. In 1960 the adjacent land was acquired for Public School 181. The number of the school was changed to Public School 20, by action of the Board of Education on July 21, 1960, due to citizen petitions and civic groups who were eager to perpetuate the number of a discontinued elementary school, which was known as one of the Lower East Side’s best known public educational institutions. Graduates from the original P.S. 20 include Senator Jacob K. Javits, actors Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni, and humanist and writer Harry Golden. The school was named for Anna Silver shortly after her death in 1960, an immigrant who lived on the Lower East Side. Her son Charles H. Silver, a businessman, served as the President of the Board of Education from 1959 to 1962.