Governor Al Smith Walks Us Through the Lower East Side of 1945 [VIDEO]

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 at 11:16 am by
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With all this talk about gentrification (i.e. Spike Lee), I thought it would be appropriate to journey back in time to Lower Manhattan in 1945.

The following borderline-propaganda footage is narrated by Al Smith, a significant, but largely under-recognized New York politician from the Lower East Side. Elected governor for four terms in New York, he also ran in the presidential race against Herbert Hoover in 1928. As stated in a documentary narrated by Ken Burns, “In eight years [as governor], he had rationalized and restructured the state government, pushed through landmark legislation and social welfare reform, and initiated a spectacular program of public works.” Smith lost the election to Hoover, but eventually rebounded to head the company that built the Empire State Building.

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Smith narrates the video against a backdrop of some period footage of life on the Lower East Side during World War II. Imagery of the Fulton Fish Market, Delancey and Orchard Streets, Essex Street, Grand Street, Seward Park High School, the Educational Alliance, and others, show the general goings-on, the diversity, and the immense patriotism of the times. It’s a fascinating, albeit hokey glimpse into the streetscapes of years past, and a good comparison of how different (or not so different?) it is today.

“No matter where you live, you never move away from the East Side in spirit” – Al Smith

Well put.

-Written by Amy Welch

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