The story of Seward Park High School began with P.S. 62 Intermediate which was located at Essex, Hester, and Norfolk Streets. When P.S. 62 opened its doors in 1905, the Lower East Side was purported to be the most densely populated spot in the world. People of more nationalities lived here than anywhere else in the United States. Residents were eager to utilize the opportunities of public education as the city schools represented a gateway from the life of toil to which their parents had been confined in the "old country." To the parents of these children the schools were almost sacred institutions.
The students of P.S. 62 immediately began to excel academically. They also had a keen interest in athletics and PS. 62's champion basketball and soccer teams were the pride of the neighborhood for many years. The original student body of P.S. 62 were exclusively seventh and eighth graders. In 1916 a ninth grade was added making this one of the city's first junior high schools. Robert Brodie became principal of the school at this time and the school became known as Seward Park Junior High School. The school began a successful experiment with "rapid advancement" and pre-vocational courses.
In 1923 Seward Park Junior High became the first experimental junior-senior high school. This experiment lasted only a few years as the junior high school students were transferred to P.S. 65 (Charles Sumner Junior High School). The high school remained and the name was modified to Seward Park High School with Robert Brodie as principal.
When plans were made for the construction of the Sixth Avenue Subway, it became necessary to take down Seward Park High School's building. The site for the new school was chosen as the block bounded by Essex, Grand, Brooms and Ludlow Streets. On this site stood six tenements, P.S. 137, a street running from Essex to Ludlow Street called Essex Market Place, a Court House and the Alimony Jail of which Al Smith had at one time been the sheriff in charge. The former school site became Seward Park Oval on Essex Street which today is used for tennis, running and basketball.
Seward Park High School's new building was completed in 1929 and a new era began.
Ludlow Street Jail
Compliments of Ephemeral New York, January 2010
Opened in 1862 at Ludlow and Broome Street, the Ludlow Street jail was meant for civil rather than criminal offenders-many of whom could pay extra money and get better accommodations.
And those upgraded accommodations weren't bad. We're talking a reading room, grocery store, and cells with comfy beds and curtains. It looks more like a posh university club, according to the illustrations below.
Notable prisoners include notoriously sinister politician William "Boss" Tweed, sent to Ludlow on corruption charges. He died there as well.
There's also Victoria Woodhull, the first female candidate for president and a free-love advocate, who was accused of sending obscene material in the mail. She was found not guilty six months later.
The jail was also known as the "alimony club," since many "delinquent husbands" got sent there, as a 1925 New York Times article put it.
It was bulldozed in the late 1920s. On the site now: Seward Park High School.
(1925-2010) At Seward, he was Bernard Schwartz, but to the world, he was a handsome leading actor who earned numerous awards and nominations, including Oscar and Emmy nods in a career that spanned over sixty years. His personal life in Hollywood was as famous as his professional life for his many romances, wives and a famous daughter named Jamie Lee Curtis. Equally adept in comedy or serious drama, memorable films include “Some Like It Hot” with Marilyn Monroe and “The Defiant Ones” with Sidney Poitier which earned him an Oscar nomination.
(1923-2008) Born Estelle Scher, this petite “Golden Girl” appeared on the stage and big screen, often playing the role of a mother. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was as the feisty, wise-cracking mother on the hit TV comedy series, “The Golden Girls” that brought her the most fame, as well as Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. See her website www.estellegetty.com to learn more.
Keenan Ivory Wayans
Multi-faceted and multi-talented. How else can you describe this comedian, actor, writer, director and producer whose cutting-edge humor made him a household name within the African-American community? Among his many credits is the Emmy-winning sketch comedy series “In Living Color” which he created and hosted in the 1990s. He directed the hit movies “Scary Movie” (1 and 2).
(1912-2004) Add a Nobel Prize-winning scientist to Seward’s roster of super high achievers. Among his many honors and awards is the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1970. Dr. Axelrod, a Ph.D., was a biochemist who spent most of his career with the National Institutes of Health, gaining recognition for his research on neurotransmitters and the pineal gland.
Want a good laugh? Jerry has been making us do just that for over half a century. First, with his wife Ann Meara in the comedy team “Stiller and Meara” in the 1960s and 1970s. Then, in the hit TV sitcoms, “Seinfeld” and “The King of Queens” decades later. He has passed down his “funny gene” to his son, Ben Stiller, the movie actor.
(1938-2003) Born Stanley Martin Feuerman. Stan’s love of pop standards from the “great American songbook” was evident as an on-air radio personality in New York. With a career that began in 1959, Stan would eventually be heard on NYC’s radio stations such as WPIX, WHN (country music), WFAN (sports), WNEW and WQEW. He was also host, producer and writer of the syndicated “Solid Gold Country” which was aired in over 200 markets for Dick Clark’s radio network.
1920-2000) A career of fifty-plus years in film, TV and theater that was rewarded with Oscar (“The Fortune Cookie”) and Golden Globe wins and many more nominations. He starred in several comedies written by Neil Simon, often teaming up with Jack Lemmon. He may best be remembered as the slovenly half of “The Odd Couple”. During his Seward days in the 1930s, he was known by his given name of Walter John Matthow.
Richie wants you to sit back, relax and tune in to some cool sounds. He and his brother, Charlie, are the lead singers of The Soul Survivors, a Philadelphia R & B group. Their songs have hit Billboard’s R&B Top 100. So, go ahead – to their official website www.thesoulsurvivors.com and be prepared to enjoy music that is “timeless and authentic”.
(1925-2004). And the “Tony Award” goes to… Virginia for her performance in the musical, “Raisin” in 1974, based on “A Raisin in the Sun”. Born Eliza Virginia Capers, this veteran singer and actress appeared in countless Hollywood films, TV shows and Broadway productions. She studied voice at the Juilliard School and performed in Yiddish theater. “I did a lot of radio with [band leader Abe] Lyman. Then Abe took me on some band dates in the Bronx. There stood yours truly. The people who thought I was a nice Jewish girl got the shock of their lives.”
You can say Kevin has many “Friends” in Hollywood. This Seward alumnus achieved success behind the camera as a producer and director of several television comedy shows and specials, including the megahit “Friends”, its off-shoot, “Joey” and the HBO series “Dream On”. Now on the faculty of his alma-mater, Emerson College in Boston, Kevin continues to produce shows and to teach.
Joe E. Ross
(1914-1982) “Ooh! Ooh!” was the trademark exclamation of this stand-up comedian. Born Joseph Roszawikz, he was a regular on several TV series of the 1950s and 1960s, including “The Phil Silvers Show” and “Car 54, Where Are You?”.
You can catch Luis on the HBO series “How To Make It In America” or in many upcoming movies. Better known as Pedro Lamboy while in Seward, Luis has countless film and TV credits on his resume. As a character actor, he often plays the sidekick, policeman or thug. Luis has appeared in many films by director Steven Soderbergh, including “Traffic” and “Boogie Nights”.
(1913-1993) The next time you hear a beautiful tune on the radio, it may just possibly have been written by this fellow Seward alumnus, born Samuel Cohen. His many songs for films have won him numerous Oscar nominations, including four wins. Add to his shelf, Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. He also wrote the lyrics for a number of Broadway musicals. Some memorable songs include “Love and Marriage”, “Three Coins in the Fountain”, “High Hopes” and “Call Me Irresponsible”.
Among Seward’s alumni is our very own Olympic athlete! Dr. Katz was a member of the 1964 U.S. Synchronized Swimming Performance Team in Tokyo. Her career as an educator, writer, coach and swimmer has earned her world class awards and recognition. She is a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. See her website www.drjanekatz.com to learn more about her life-long passion with the world of swimming.
Thank Bill for helping you to stay abreast of current events and issues! In the 1970s and 1980s, Bill was an anchor on several news programs on Channel 5 in NYC: “Black News”, “The 10 O’Clock News” and his own “McCreary Report”. For his achievements in news broadcasting, he has won numerous awards including two Emmys. He can now be seen on the news program “Special Edition”.
(1924-2000) The Honorable Judge Ramirez led a most distinguished life marked by “first”s: the first Puerto Rican to be elected to the NY State Assembly and to the NY State Supreme Court. His career as a jurist was all the more remarkable given that he was blinded in early adulthood. He was active in many civic organizations in Brooklyn and an advocate for the disabled. Upon his retirement from the bench in 1997, Mayor Rudy Giuliani proclaimed a “Justice Gilbert Ramirez Day”. As a lasting legacy, a park in Brooklyn and an apartment building in the Bronx bear his name.
(1922 – 2014) Born Anna Heller, she was a veteran actress of the stage, screen and TV. With numerous appearances and recurring roles on TV shows and movies, Anna was busy in the business of show business for over fifty years. Her specialty was playing frazzled housewives and matriarchs. Credits include “The Sopranos”, “NYPD Blue” and the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope”.
(1917-2010) Born Irving Freeman, he was a character actor who appeared in many TV shows. He is perhaps best remembered as a regular on the popular comedy “The Phil Silvers Show” in the 1950s. He had been a member of The Friars Club since 1987.
Johnny is enjoying success on the business side of the music world. He is the manager of Aventura, the musical group of four young men, and was instrumental in promoting them to national and international recognition in the Latin music community. Follow him on www.myspace.com/johnnyaventura, twitter.com/johnnymarines and www.facebook.com/people/Johnny-Marines.
Bobby “Zorro” Hunter
At 6’5″ tall, this Seward alum played basketball with the “Tigers” at Tennessee State University. Later, in the 1970s, he joined the world famous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team which entertained audiences around the globe as it played exhibition games that combined athleticism, theater and comedy. Bobby has been active as an advocate of GED (General Equivalency Diplomas) programs.
If you are a fan of dance performance, then this Seward alum is your man. Prominent in the world of postmodern dance, David is a dancer, choreographer, actor, writer and theatrical director. Audiences from around the world have seen his work, as well as on television programs such as PBS’s “Great Performances” series. Learn more about his distinguished career on www.pickupperformance.org.
Aida has been nominated twice for an Emmy Award and has won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Janice Soprano in the HBO TV series, “The Sopranos” (1999-2007). She played Judge Felicia Catano in the TV series, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2013-2018). She has appeared in many major movies. You can also say acting runs in her family. See her on Facebook to learn more.
(1920-1993) A TV and film producer, Ely first achieved recognition adapting theatrical productions to film. He won a Peabody Award for his innovative “Play of the Week” series which aired from 1959-1961. He formed The American Film Theater in 1972 which mounted plays such as “The Homecoming” to film. Not limiting himself to drama, Ely produced a three-hour documentary “King” on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King which earned critical praise.
George David Weiss
(1921-2010) Do you find yourself singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” along with Elvis? Or “What a Wonderful World” with Louis Armstrong? How about “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in the jungle, the mighty jungle? This Seward alumnus and consummate musician, along with his co-lyricists, brought these memorable songs to American pop culture. A graduate of the Julliard School of Music, George played several instruments. He collaborated on several Broadway musicals and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.
If you like spectator sports, then tune into ESPN and HBO and listen to him give the play-by-play in Spanish. Roberto is a sportscaster/analyst for a variety of sports (football, basketball, hockey, etc.). He is also the editor of “Futbol Mundial” Magazine. See him on his website www.RobertoAbramowitz.com and on Facebook.
A graduate of Columbia Law School, Judge Shainswit authored the NYC Rent Law and Regulations and worked with NY City Council President Frank D. O’Connor. Now retired, Justice Shainswit first served in NYC Civil Court in 1971. In 1977, she was elected to the New York State Supreme Court.
Smile if you see Neil. He just may be taking your photo! Neil has traveled the world as a photographer for Time, Inc. His photos have appeared on over two hundred covers of Sports Illustrated, Time and People Magazines. He has photographed numerous international and national sporting events, as well as major political figures and celebrities. Neil now devotes most of his time to producing and directing film. View some of his work on his official website NeilLeifer.com
Jack “Wildman” Armstrong
Born Lenny Solomon, this “Wildman” was a professional wrestler with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). He appeared in several movies, including “The Wrestler”, and TV shows (“Matlock”). Want to get physically fit? You may find him at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, California where he is a personal trainer.
Thomas “Satch” Sanders
Can you top this? This 6’6″ Seward alumnus played for thirteen years with the National Basketball Association as a member of the Boston Celtics team. Eight of these years in the 1960s were NBA championship seasons. His post-professional career has included coaching and programs in support of players. Learn more on his website www.satchsanders.com.
Was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002 and served until 2008 when she had reached the term limit. She was the first Latina to represent her district and the only Latina Republican in the California State Legislature. In 2004, she became a member of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s transition team after the recall election against Governor Gray Davis and was named as one of California’s delegates to the Republican National Convention. In 2008, she was appointed to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board by the Governor.
A word to the wise: Don’t pick a fight with Phil! “I never lost in the street, as an amateur, or as a pro,” Phil once said with a laugh. In 1936, he won the sub-novice middleweight NYC Golden Gloves boxing title by scoring five knockouts in six bouts. One time, he scored two KOs on the same night. In May of the following year, he turned pro and was such a popular attraction, he fought his second bout at Madison Square Garden. He retired from the pros in 1939 with a 7-0 (5 KOs) record.
His achievements are Legion-dary! Emigrating to the U.S. from China in 1960 at the age of 12, Fang learned English and succeeded academically, obtaining a Masters Degree. He served in the U.S. Army in a twenty year career that included duty in Vietnam, followed by another twenty year career at the Army installation in Fort Monmouth, NJ. During that time, he became active with the American Legion, serving many offices from the post to the national level. In September, 2011, Fang was elected the national commander of The American Legion, becoming the first Asian-American to lead this mutual-aid organization of military veterans.
Was elected to the NY State Assembly in 1978 and served for the next 28 years. He chaired a number of committees, most notably the Education Committee for ten years. He authored landmark education laws (to create Charter Schools in 1998, the NYC Mayoral Control Law in 2002 and enactment of Pre-K and class-size reduction programs in 1997). In 2004, he joined the City College of NY’s graduate school as an adjunct professor.
(1915-2003) Moe spent a six decade career with the US Postal Service and as a labor leader. He became America’s best known postal union leader through his tough bargaining style which brought improved wages and benefits. He was president of the 340,000 member American Postal Workers Union from 1980 to 2001.
Nikki Tomlinson (Franke)
In the sport of foil fencing, Nikki fenced her way to national championships, as well as medals at the Pan American Games. She coaches at Temple University where her storied career won her the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame Award in 2002 in the coaching category. Learn more about her on www.USFencingHallofFame.com
William J. Becker
Brigadier General, US Air Force, retired 1979. Adding to the list of distinguished Seward alumni, Class of 1943, is General Becker. He is a Korean War and Vietnam war veteran. His military career and service to our country are summarized on the U.S. Air Force official website http://www.af.mil/information/bios
(1910-1999) “Mr. Brooklyn”, as he was sometimes called, was a leading member of the Democratic Party in the borough. A lawyer by training, Harold was chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the 1970s. He may be best known for negotiating two labor agreements without a strike or a fare increase during NYC’s fiscal crisis during that period.
…..Began his legal career in 1975. He first served as a Justice in NYC Civil Court in 1985. Since 1990 Judge Tom has been presiding in the State Supreme Court of NY.
Samuel A. Spiegel
(1914-1977) Was a Member of the NY State Assembly from 1957-1962. He was known for passing tenant-friendly legislation and authored “The Forgotten Man in Housing” in 1959. In 1968, he became a Justice of New York State Supreme Court, and later, a Surrogate of NY County. If you find yourself at Madison, Grand and Jackson Streets on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, you are standing at Samuel A. Spiegel Square, named in his honor.
Here are some random photos from our school's history. If you're looking for photos from a specific reunion please click here. We also have some interesting photos of school memorabilia and news items.