THE Al Smith Houses were built in 1953. Its current boundaries are Madison Street, Catherine Street, St, James Place (formerly New Bowery) and Robert Wagner Senior Place. The project was named for 4-time NYS Governor Alfred E. Smith (1873-1944), who was born and raised on the Lower East Side and grew up in in a building that still stands on Oliver Street. Known as “The Happy Warrior,” he worked in the Fulton Fish Market and later a pump factory. He was elected assemblyman at age 30 and later became Speaker. “The working man’s friend”, he championed the Workmen’s Compensation Law, banning corporate campaign contributions, and supported women’s right to vote.
He was defeated in 1928 for the Presidency against Herbert Hoover, suffering through a grueling campaign in which he suffered countless attacks, especially in the South, for his Roman Catholicism. Despite his staunch Democratic Party membership, he opposed Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and supported Roosevelt’s Republican opponents in the elections of 1936 and 1940.
This likeness, shot during a Forgotten NY tour “Between the Bridges” on the Lower East Side in April 2019, can be found in a playground off Catherine and Madison Streets.
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