The New Deal, which established a network of federal programs to put people to work during the Great Depression, impacted NYC tremendously. From schools to murals and zoos, many of the projects created by the New Deal still exist today. According to Living New Deal, a team dedicated to keeping the legacy of the New Deal alive, New York received the most New Deal public works in the country and was the beneficiary of prominent projects such as the Triborough Bridge, LaGuardia Airport, and Riverside Park. And now, you can see some of the locations of these projects with Living New Deal’s New Deal New York map! They’ve mapped about one thousand locations (and there are still more being discovered). Check out a sampling of the locations in each NYC borough below!
New Deal projects are dispersed all throughout The Bronx, as shown in the map above. One prominent New Deal project was the 1934-1941 overhaul of Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Beach by the Parks Department, with funding from the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and Works Project Administration (WPA). They added playgrounds, athletic fields, picnic tables, and much more to Pelham Bay Park, and built the Split Rock golf course and club house on Orchard Beach.
An architectural gem, the Bronx County Courthouse, also opened in 1934 with federal funding. Other notable Bronx New Deal projects, as shown on the map, are Williamsbridge Oval Park, the former Bronx General Post Office (also the site of a beautiful New Deal mural), and the Henry Hudson Parkway and Bridge.
As the map shows, Manhattan is packed with New Deal projects. You might be surprised to learn that the Central Park Zoo was built in 1934 by CWA workers—and is the most significant of thirty New Deal projects in Central Park, including the Conservatory Garden.
The Lincoln Tunnel was also built with PWA funds to improve vehicle access into and out of NYC. Other prominent Manhattan New Deal projects were the Essex Street Market, the Federal Office Building, and the the reconstruction of Riverside Park. And did you know about the New Deal mural at the New York Public Library?
Red Hook Park is one of Brooklyn’s most significant New Deal projects. It was one of seven major parks created by the Parks Department with New Deal aid—and its enormous swimming pool was one of 11 pools built by the WPA. Brooklyn is also home to many other New Deal projects, including the Williamsburg Child’s Health Clinic, which was one of eight clinics built with PWA funds as part of a NYC initiative to improve health in poor neighborhoods, and Brooklyn College, built in 1935-37, also with PWA funds. And of course, don’t forget about the New Deal mural at the Brooklyn Museum!
Interesting fact: the Staten Island Zoo was the first zoo in the country built for educational purposes. Considered to be state-of-the-art, it was built in 1933-1936 with aid from the CWA and WPA. Another major New Deal Project in Staten Island was Staten Island Technical High School, built as “New Dorp High School” in 1937. It’s one of several New York schools built with PWA funds, all of which were especially spacious and modern. Finally, there’s a 13-panel New Deal mural at Staten Island Borough Hall!
Last but not least, you can find many New Deal projects scattered throughout Queens. In fact, one of the country’s largest WPA projects took place here—La Guardia Airport in 1937-39. Another big one was the Astoria Park Pool (another one of the eleven pools built with WPA funding) and the WPA’s huge revamping of Jacob Riis Park. The Forest Hills Station Post Office, a lesser-known site, was one of 24 post offices built by the New Deal around NYC. Queens is also the site of many New Deal murals, such as the one in LaGuardia Airport or the Main Post Office mural in Flushing.