This playground honors Louis H. Pink (1882-1955), a committed civic reformer and an early advocate of creating government-subsidized, low-rent housing. As part of his extensive record of civil service he acted as the state insurance superintendent, the chairman of the New York State Housing Board, and wrote several books including The New Day in Housing (1928), the first volume on modern community housing to be published in the United States. This playground was built to provide recreation facilities for the local residents of the adjacent Louis H. Pink Houses.
Born in Wausau, Wisconsin, on December 4, 1882, Pink attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and later received his law degree from New York Law School in 1906. After being admitted to the bar, he lived and worked in New York City. During his tenure as the Chairman of the State Board of Housing (from 1937 to 1939), he suggested that Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947) enact a massive rental housing program. He felt affordable housing should be constructed not only for the middle income earners but also for the lower paid wage earners.
Inspired by innovative public housing projects produced in Europe, Pink and his fellow reformers called for measures stronger than changing building codes and constructing “model tenements.” In his book, he offers a variety of solutions to the nation’s housing crisis, including more slum condemnation, tax exemptions for speculative house builders, and the exploration of “cooperative housing plans.” A 1928 New York Times review called The New Day in Housing, “an exceedingly interesting, forward-looking, and on the whole, hopeful book.”
In 1934, the New York City Housing Authority was created, the first such local authority of its kind in the United States. The agency’s first project, completed in 1936, was a 210-unit development on the Lower East Side, named appropriately, The First Houses. Shortly after they were built The United States Housing Act was passed, setting aside $100 million for housing construction. The First Houses and subsequent developments were based on designs that originated in the 19th century: low-rise apartment buildings with playgrounds, shops, and places to hold community meetings. Each apartment had a full bathroom and kitchen with windows providing outdoor light and access to air on both sides, making the new dwellings extremely desirable.
In this particular East New York neighborhood, a steady stream of German, Italian, Russian, and Polish immigrants led to a dense population and a housing shortage in the late 1940s. Adding to the problem was the need to relocate families displaced from sites of other public improvements around the city. As a response, planning began in 1955 for the construction of a federally aided, low-rent public housing project.
The City acquired the housing site on March 13, 1957. The Board of Estimate approved the revised plan to develop 22 eight-story buildings on April 25, 1957, with the goal of housing 1500 families. The City decided to name the complex and the planned adjoining recreation area in memory of Louis Pink, the long-time public housing advocate, who had died on May 18, 1955.
The playground, bordered by Eldert Lane and Stanley Avenue, belongs to the Housing Authority, but is operated and maintained by Parks. In 1999, Mayor Giuliani funded an $81,000 renovation that brought new play equipment, safety surfacing, and handball courts.