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Sol Lain Plgd

Sol Lain Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground, located on East Broadway, Gouverneur, and Henry Streets, is named to honor Sol Lain (1936-1971), a community activist who dedicated his life to serving the youth of this Lower East Side neighborhood. Lain lived in the nearby Vladeck Park Houses with his wife Betty, and ran youth sports programs at the Henry Street Settlement, and later at the Educational Alliance. He oversaw baseball and other recreational activities at these and other non-profit organizations, but his passion was basketball. Lain often brought teams he coached to sports tournaments as far away as the Catskills. In the 1960s, tournaments organized by Lain at this playground attracted professional basketball players including Fred Crawford and Bob McCullough, and rivaled the Harlem’s legendary Rucker tournaments for a time. When Sol Lain died of cancer in 1971, a local law passed naming this park, formerly Henry Street Playground, in his honor.

After Sol Lain’s death, community members formed an association to continue his work with children. The Sol Lain Association sponsors youth sports events at the playground, including double-dutch competitions, a wiffle-ball league, flag football, trophy ceremonies, and back-to-school block parties. The association also helps to maintain the playground, organizing paintings and cleanups, lobbying for renovations, and working with public officials to provide playground equipment and upkeep.

Public School 147 once stood on the site of Sol Lain Playground. The school was replaced by P.S. 134 in 1959, and a connecting playground was completed a year later. Public School 134 is also known as Henrietta Szold School, named in honor of the educator and activist who in 1912 founded Hadassah, a women’s Zionist and humanitarian organization. During the 1930s, Henrietta Szold (1860–1941) formed the Children’s Youth Aliyah, which rescued thousands of children from Nazi Germany and helped them resettle in Israel. A mural in the school’s lobby celebrates Szold’s achievements and philosophy. The school, which serves children in kindergarten through sixth grades, continues Szold’s dedication to children through its commitment to promoting the success of students of all backgrounds.

Henry Street, where this playground is located, is named for Henry Rutgers (1745–1830), a wealthy Dutch merchant and the namesake of Rutgers College in New Jersey. This street, one of two named in his honor (the other is nearby Rutgers Street), was named for him in the early 19th century, when Rutgers donated two lots to the City as a school site. Gouverneur Street is named for Abraham Gouverneur, a 17th century merchant and political activist.

Once populated by wealthy Dutch farmers and merchants, this Lower East Side neighborhood was by the turn of the 20th century largely a Jewish enclave. It was home to a flourishing Yiddish theatrical and artistic community, radical intellectuals, and tens of thousands of immigrant families. After World War II, the Lower East Side’s ethnic makeup shifted as the neighborhood became one of the first racially integrated communities in the City. In recent years, the neighborhood has attracted residents of all nationalities and walks of life.

Sol Lain Playground, jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education, contains a basketball court, climbing area, slides, swings, and volleyball and baseball playing surfaces. Mayor Giuliani contributed a total of $112,421 to pay for recent renovations including re-paving the baseball field in 1999, and installing new play equipment and safety surfacing in 1998. In 1994, P.S. 134 teachers and students started a small garden in the playground. Designed to teach children about plant life and gardening techniques, the garden is maintained by students and teachers and sponsored by GreenThumb’s Education in the Gardens program.

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