Working New Deal New York

 
Frank da Cruz
fdc@columbia.edu
August 15, 2015
Last update: Sun Aug 16 13:51:29 2015
The New Deal ended in 1943 and left behind a rich legacy of parks, playgrounds, schools, bridges, tunnels, dams, airports, and so on. But it also created a large number — perhaps millions — of jobs that still exist today. So despite all efforts to kill it off and erase it from history, this is how the New Deal lives on.

Consider that in New York City alone, about 400 parks and playgrounds were created under the New Deal. Park maintenance is a lot of work: cleaning bathrooms, mowing lawns, trimming trees and shrubbery, collecting trash, raking leaves, changing light bulbs, removing dead trees and planting new ones, keeping the athletic facilities and playground equipment in good repair, unclogging drains; gardening, patrolling for safety, controlling rats, and on and on. In addition, some parks have swimming pools that need a maintenance crew and lifeguards and swimming instructors, and others have buildings with active staff that provides services to the public.

Williamsburg Oval Park Recreation Center One example is Oval Park in the Bronx. Pictured at left is the Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Center, that has a fully-equipped gym, a public computer room, a game room, classes, lockers, areas for meetings, and a reception desk. People work here today because Oval Park and its Recreation Center were built by the WPA in the 1930s. Not only that, its very existence helps other parts of the economy; for example, the makers and sellers of the exercise bikes, treadmills, and other fitness equipment; the pingpong, pool, knock hockey, and other gaming tables, the computers and networking equipment.

Furthermore, facilities such as these must be renovated from time to time, pumping hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars into the real economy, the one where people work for a living: plumbers, electricians, construction workers, haulers, and so on. The images in this section show just a very small sample of real people doing real work in Oval Park and some other nearby parks, thanks to the New Deal.