Alfred E. Smith Playground
This park honors Governor Alfred Emanuel Smith (1873-1944), who rose from the Lower East Side as the son of Irish immigrants to become a New York State and City legislator, governor, and the first Catholic candidate for President of the United States.
In 1904, Smith was elected to his first government office as a Democratic member of the State Assembly. Working with State Senator Robert F. Wagner, he investigated labor conditions and passed laws to raise safety standards in factories. Smith was elected President of the Board of Aldermen in 1917, and in 1918 he was elected the first Irish Catholic Governor of New York. During his four two-year terms, Smith sponsored legislation for rent control, tenant protection, and low-cost housing. He appointed Robert Moses (1888-1981) Chairman of the New York State Council on Parks in 1924 and Secretary of State in 1927.
Smith made history in 1928 as the first Irish Catholic to be nominated for president. He lost the election to the Republican Herbert Hoover. Afterward, Smith became a central figure in municipal development, backing the construction of new housing and parkland near his birthplace at 174 South Street.
Located at the junction of Catherine Slip, Madison, and South Streets, Alfred E. Smith Park was dedicated on June 1, 1950. The adjacent Governor Alfred E. Smith Houses were erected shortly thereafter, and the Alfred E. Smith Recreation Center was opened in 1967. The park contains two memorials to Governor Smith, who was also known as “The Happy Warrior,” “The King of Oliver Street,” and “The First Citizen.” Charles Keck designed the nine-foot bronze figure of the Governor and the bas-relief of children at play. The relief represents "The Sidewalks of New York," a song always played at Al Smith's campaign rallies. Paul Manship created the flagpole base decorated with animals native to New York before colonial settlement.
In 2004, NYC Parks completed major renovations at Alfred E. Smith Playground, which included the installation of a synthetic turf field and the renovation of the park’s sports courts. Also, the playground’s water area, play equipment, and safety surface were improved, the comfort station was renovated, and the roadway separating the two portions of the park was replaced with a garden path. Funding for this project came as part of a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to improve the quality of life throughout lower Manhattan, and give New Yorkers better opportunities to relax and play.
Governor Alfred E.Smith Flagstaff Details
- Sculptor: Paul Howard Manship
- Description: Flagstaff in a three-tiered, circular base with animal figures, on an octagonal pedestal
- Materials: Base--bronze, pedestal--Texas pink granite
- Dimensions: base h 8' x diameter 5'8"; pedestal w 10'
- Cast: 1946
- Dedicated: 1950
- Foundry: Capitol Products, Inc., Long Island City, NY
- Donor: Governor A.E. Smith Memorial Committee
- Inscription: GOVERNOR ALFRED EMANUEL SMITH GREAT AND GOOD FRIEND OF THE CHILDREN