Sidney Hillman Playground
Sidney Hillman Playground
What was here before?
The site of this playground was once part of the 339-acre Delancey estate that stretched from east of the Bowery from Division Street north to Houston Street. After the Revolutionary War, the Delanceys were forced into exile, and their land was confiscated by New York State due to their allegiances to the English Crown.
During the Industrial Revolution, this area was home to factory workers who lived in tenement housing, which were largely retrofitted warehouses with communal bathrooms and unventilated, windowless railroad apartments. These unsanitary living conditions caused disease outbreaks that led to legislative reforms to protect the health of New Yorkers.
How did this site become a playground?
In 1948, NYC Parks acquired Sidney Hillman Playground, located at the intersection of Lewis and Delancey Streets. A 1993 renovation took down a 10-foot wall that separated the playground from the adjacent P.S. 110 and now serves both the school and the local community.
Who is this playground named for?
This playground honors labor leader Sidney Hillman (1887-1946), who inspired the development of the surrounding cooperative housing development.
Hillman was born into a Jewish rabbinical family in Russia on March 23, 1887. Anti-Semitic pogroms forced Hillman to flee his homeland and immigrate to the United States in 1907. His experiences growing up as a peasant would lead him to become an activist in the American labor movement.
After arriving in Chicago, Hillman gained employment as a garment worker. In 1910, he led his fellow workers in a successful strike that marked the beginning of Hillman’s involvement in the American labor movement. Four years later, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACW) elected him union president. Considered a radical in some circles, those notions were quelled when he gained the support of prominent social reformers such as Lillian Wald (1867-1940), Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947), and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (1882-1965).
The construction of affordable, cooperative housing remains one of Hillman’s most lasting achievements. In 1926, the ACW helped form the Amalgamated Housing Corporation (AHC) to provide low-cost, quality housing for its members. After clearing 65 tenement buildings along Grand Street, the AHC constructed cooperative housing projects that changed the face of low-to-middle income housing. These developments fostered a sense of community by virtue of their design, as well as their cooperative boards and newsletters. Upon its completion in 1951, the AHC named the adjacent development in honor of Hillman.