Sidney Hillman Playground
Sidney Hillman Playground
Located at the intersection of Lewis and Delancey Streets, Sidney Hillman Playground takes its name from the housing development that surrounds it and the man who inspired the development, Sidney Hillman (1887-1946). Hillman was born into a Jewish rabbinical family in Russia in 1887. In 1907, Hillman fled violent anti-Semitic pogroms in his homeland and immigrated to the United States. His experiences growing up as a Russian Jewish peasant would lead him to become an activist in the American labor movement.
Employed as a garment worker in Chicago soon after his arrival, Hillman first became involved in the American labor movement after leading his fellow workers in a successful strike in 1910. Four years later, he was elected president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACW). During his tenure, Hillman introduced numerous initiatives. The most successful of these was a form of collective bargaining known as "industrial democracy," which encouraged workers to resolve issues on the shop floor. Hillman also encouraged the participation of immigrants, whom had previously been frowned upon by the leaders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). AFL president Samuel Gompers (1850-1924) subsequently attempted to alienate Hillman and his organization from the AFL.
Hillman revitalized a social movement beset by many problems. Labor unions in the early 20th century were losing the public support and influence they had achieved in the late 19th century. Internal strife over whether or not to support the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, extensive graft exposed by government investigations of unions, and reactions against labor radicalism all marred the American labor movement in the early 20th century.
Hillman gained the support of eminent social reformers such as Lillian Wald (1867-1940), New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947), and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (1882-1965). In 1938, Hillman formed the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO), along with John L. Lewis (1880-1969), leader of the United Mine Workers Union. Hillman also helped found the American Labor Party, which served as a third-party alternative to the Republicans and Democrats from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Affordable cooperative housing was one of Hillman's most lasting achievements. In 1926, under the auspices of the ACW, the Amalgamated Housing Corporation (AHC) was formed. Initially, the AHC was to provide low-cost, quality housing for the ACW's members. The AHC built several cooperative housing developments along Grand Street on the Lower East Side, and along Norman Avenue (now know as Hillman Avenue), in the Bronx. These developments fostered a sense of community by virtue of their design, their cooperative boards, and their newsletters. The housing complex adjacent to Hillman playground was an AHC project. Sixty-five tenement buildings were torn down for the project, which changed the face of low to middle income housing. Upon its completion in 1951, the housing development was named in honor of Hillman.
In 1948, Parks acquired Sidney Hillman Playground. In 1993, a 10-foot wall separating the playground and P.S. 110, also known as Theodore Shoenfeld School, was demolished. New fences were installed and trees were planted. New planting pots, benches, bridges, and a colorful archway, which serves as the entrance to the children's play area and the basketball courts, were added. In 2000, as part of the Mayor's Executive Budget, the basketball courts were resurfaced. Today, the playground serves both neighboring P.S. 110 and the local community.