What was here before?
The site was formerly occupied by a mix of commercial and residential buildings, which were razed in 1950 as part of a slum clearance program. A large swath of the neighborhood was torn down to make way for the Alfred E. Smith Houses public housing development directly east of this site.
How did this site become a playground?
The property for this playground was acquired by the City of New York on July 25, 1946 on behalf of the New York City Housing Authority and was promptly designated for use as a play area for the Governor Alfred E. Smith Houses. The site was conveyed to Parks on June 12, 1952.
As part of Parks’ Community Parks Initiative, a multi-faceted program to invest in under-resourced public parks and increase the accessibility and quality of parks throughout the five boroughs, the playground underwent a full reconstruction that updated existing play areas in 2020. The playground received new play equipment and an improved basketball area, among other amenities.
What is this playground named after?
This playground is named after the nearby public school, designated P.S. 1 Alfred E. Smith Elementary School. The school is named for Alfred Emanuel Smith (1873-1944), who grew-up on nearby Oliver Street. Before serving two terms as the Governor of New York State from 1919 to 1928, Smith was elected to the New York State Assembly where he was Majority Leader and later Speaker of the House. Supporting social welfare legislation and public works projects, Smith contributed ideas that laid the groundwork for the plans outlined in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal (1933-1939).