by Kevin Walsh

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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Eric Rosenfield September 21, 2022 - 7:37 am

I’ll never forgive him for being the man who “discovered” Robert Moses and brought him into power.

redstaterefugee September 22, 2022 - 9:52 am

Eric: Robert Moses gave New York two World Fairs, two bridges to facilitate travel to & from them, & modern highways so that citizens could take day trips to the many parks he commissioned(Jones Beach, Bear Mountain/Seven Lakes), & more. All that plus he connected Staten Island to the outer boroughs of Brooklyn & Queens. What have you ever done?

therealguyfaux September 23, 2022 - 1:10 pm

That sounds perilously close to “building the Autobahn” being a saving grace of the Third Reich.

redstaterefugee September 25, 2022 - 9:48 am

Thank you for illustrating what “looseness of association”, a psychopathology symptom, sounds like. What does your “shining city on a hill” look like; the 1964 World Fair or the dystopic NYC of today?
Our enemies abroad are encouraged by gaslighters like yourself:


Bill Tweeddale October 5, 2022 - 7:24 pm

Read Robert Caro’s The Power Broker. The 1964 World’s Fair was a financial disaster, and Moses left the banks holding the bag. He promoted the automobile, and wouldn’t spend a penny on mass transit. He bulldozed his expressways through quiet residential neighborhoods when he could have taken less disruptive routes. He had the water and electricity shut off in other neighborhoods, forcing people out of their homes with no where to go, so that he could build public housing projects. Al Smith did a lot of nice things, but introducing Robert Moses was not one of them!

Stew Kaplan September 24, 2022 - 1:44 pm

Thanks for the always informative articles and interesting photographs.

Just 2 nits: It’s Alfred E. (Emmanuel) Smith, not J; and he was a 4 -term governor, not 3.

The original State office building in Albany, a 1920-30s art deco gem, is named after him. Anyone that loves old NYC architecture would love walking around and photographing downtown Albany, whose architecture is very reminiscent of old NYC.

Jerry Slaff September 24, 2022 - 9:35 pm

He was also the first candidate, presidential or state-wide, to specifically court the votes of immigrants. And his was the first presidential campaign to be chaired by a woman–a Jewish woman at that!


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