Bounded by Madison, Water, Jackson, and Gouverneur Streets, this park honors the Jewish political activist, writer, and New York City Alderman Baruch Charney Vladeck (1886-1938). Vladeck was born Baruch Nachman Charney in Russia, the fifth of six children. His father owned a small leather supply store and left it to the family when he died of tuberculosis in 1889. Vladeck’s mother raised the children on her own, working at a synagogue as a reader for other women. In the early 1900s, Vladeck joined the radical Poale Zion, or “Workers of Zion,” movement, a group of dedicated Jewish socialists who advocated the return of all Polish Jews to Israel. In 1904, Russian officials imprisoned Vladeck for his participation in the movement. Though he had spent several years in school, it was in prison that he received his greatest education.
Vladeck organized classes in arithmetic and literature for his fellow prisoners. Meanwhile, he studied politics, social sciences, and history from books borrowed from jailed intellectuals. As a result of his prison experience, Vladeck abandoned the Poale Zion movement and joined the Bund, the Jewish workers’ branch of the Russian Social Democratic Party. Vladeck soon became known in the organization for his exceptional oratory and leadership skills. His affiliation with the Bund forced him to flee to Poland, where he adopted the name Vladeck to evade Russian officials. In 1908, Vladeck immigrated to the United States.
Upon his arrival, the renowned New York Jewish newspaper The Forward greeted Vladeck with a front-page story detailing his accomplishments. He went on a tour of the United States and Canada before marrying Clara Richman, a nurse in the Henry Street Settlement in New York City, in 1911. One year later, the couple moved to Philadelphia, where Vladeck worked as a business manager for The Forward . While working, he took classes at the University of Pennsylvania, studying English, American history, and literature. In 1916, Vladeck moved back to New York City and briefly served as the city editor of The Forward before becoming the general business manager.
Politics once again took center stage in Vladeck’s life when, in 1917, he was elected to the Board of Aldermen (the predecessor of the current City Council) as a Socialist from Brooklyn. He took a keen interest in the city’s housing problem, and sponsored several local laws aimed at creating low-cost housing. In 1934, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia (1882-1945) appointed Vladeck to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). That same year, in an effort to improve the lives of Jewish workers and to build anti-Nazi sentiment in the United States, Vladeck founded the Jewish Labor Committee. In 1936, he helped found the American Labor Party (ALP), an organization created by Jewish-American Socialists and trade unionists to win support for both President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (1882-1945) New Deal policies and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia’s municipal reforms. Throughout his political career, Vladeck successfully promoted low-cost public housing for working people, and consequently the city named the development bordering this park the Vladeck Houses in his honor. In 1938, Vladeck suffered a severe heart attack and died here in New York.
One year after Vladeck’s death, Parks acquired jurisdiction over this property at the center of the Vladeck Houses complex, and it was named in Vladeck’s honor. Today, with benches along the outer edges of the mall and a playground in the center, Vladeck Park is both a memorial to the tireless efforts of one individual and a place of rest and relaxation for all.