Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":
A new book explores the fight—past, present, and future—to realize NYC’s public and affordable housing
I can trace my interest in New York City’s public housing to a very specific moment back in 2005. New to the city, on a visit to the Queens Museum of Art, I marveled at the “Panorama of the City of New York,” the great model of the city built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. While taking it all in—the Manhattan grid and Central Park, the bridges and piersand waterfront, the city’s terrific expanse—I wondered about the many clusters of red towers cropping up all over the five boroughs. “What are those?” I asked a friend. “The projects,” he answered. “What do you mean the projects?” I asked. “Public housing,” he said—“It’s where the poor live.” I blushed.
Affordable housing, its state, and most pressingly, the lack of it, has been a concern in New York City for more than a century. Most recently Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it a central focus of his administration, promising to create and preserve 200,000 affordable units over ten years. That’s a monumental goal. In 2015, as we learn in the introduction to Affordable Housing in New York, a wonderful new book edited by Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner, 8 percent of the city’s rental apartments (some 178,000 units) were still in government-owned and -operated public housing developments, with hundreds of thousands more New Yorkers living in complexes like Co-op City, privately-owned, below-market buildings developed with governmental aid and subsidies.
Bloom and Lasner, and the exquisite group of contributors they assembled for this volume, look into the first hundred years of projects, programs, policies, communities, and individuals that brought to life this one-of-a-kind housing stock. They focus on what they call “below-market subsidized housing,” noting that “affordable housing,” a term that is in wide use today and one that they use in the book’s title, is “a comparative term that can be stretched to include many kinds of housing”—much of what today is called “affordable,” in fact, can hardly be afforded by working-class families, let alone the poor. Anyone who tries to understand how below-market subsidized housing works in New York City is faced with a mind-boggling tangle of terms and myriad city, state, and federal programs, laws, subsidies, stimuli, grants, tax credits, and abatements, not to mention rent regulations and alternative ownership models. This book offers a way to untangle and understand these terms and their histories.
The volume begins at the turn of the 20th century, when housing the urban poor was essentially a private, philanthropic endeavor. In 1926, in response to mounting pressure due to the abysmal nature and magnitude of the problem, Governor Alfred E. Smith opened the way for governmental involvement in housing with the Limited Dividend Housing Companies Act, the nation’s first law to offer tax exemptions to developers of affordable housing and, most important, to allow the use of eminent domain for site assembly. Organized in six chapters that trace a roughly chronological trajectory, the book offers critical overviews of different waves of housing development as well as a series of essays that analyze case studies of representative communities and short sketches of key figures and programs. Most interestingly, the book tackles this history with what the editors call a “humanistic, longitudinal, large-scale approach,” training “a humanistic lens on discussions usually dominated by designers, social scientists, and policy analysts.” By analyzing about three dozen housing projects of different eras in their social and historical context, the book sheds new light on this multifaceted history without falling into the trap of becoming an obscure laundry list of housing policies.
The housing supplied over this troubled century, as the country was being radically transformed by two world wars, several immigration waves, and the Great Depression all the way to the Great Recession, never seems to meet the demand. Displacement, racial segregation, and the stigma of poverty were (and remain) persistent problems. It is especially frustrating to realize how far behind we are lagging as a society when one considers that, to this day, we cannot meet a goal set 80 years ago by Langdon Post, a housing activist appointed by then-mayor Fiorello La Guardia to head the newly created New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), who claimed that the First Houses, a public housing complex built in 1936 in the Lower East Side, were “the first dwellings which are predicated upon the philosophy that sunshine, space, and air are minimum housing requirements to which every American is entitled.”
Many of the people that advocated and fought for public housing were larger-than-life personalities. Their battles, as well as their successes and failures, were big, and we live to this day with the legacy of their work. (The stories of New York City housing activists told in this book could well be optioned for a movie.) Women, in particular, were central for bringing about the much-needed changes in housing policy in New York City and beyond. In addition to an essay on the writer and urban activist Jane Jacobs, a revealing essay is dedicated to Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch (1867–1951), a housing activist who played a key role in “transforming the Progressive Era movement for settlement houses and tenement regulation into a local and national movement for tenement destruction and public housing construction.” Developing her ideas on housing management based on the work of another important woman, the 19th-century London social reformer Octavia Hill, Simkhovitch became “the force behind maternal systems of tenant management.” She also worked with the housing reformer Edith Elmer Wood and with Catherine Bauer Wurster, a leading public housing advocate and author of the influential 1934 book Modern Housing, with whom Simkhovitch drafted many of the provisions for the United States Housing Act of 1937. Closer to us, we read about Yolanda Garcia’s work as the leader of the Bronx coalition Nos Quedamos and about Rosanne Haggerty’s innovative approach to “supportive housing” with the organization Common Ground.
Bloom and Lasner argue that, despite many setbacks and shortcomings, New York City’s efforts are ultimately a success story: There are lessons to be learned from the complex process of building and preserving, physically and socially, publicly subsidized housing. If the book is a historical study of the city’s first century of below-market housing, its larger aim, the editors write, is that of “securing more resources for a second.”
One of the book’s happiest merits is that it tries to put a face to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the projects—with a powerful photographic essay by David Schalliol. Affordable Housing in New York also lets us hear some of the voices of public housing residents. A revealing essay is dedicated to “Hip Hop and Subsidized Housing.” Hip-hop’s genesis can be traced to a 1973 party in General Sedgwick House, a Mitchell-Lama rental complex built in 1969 in the Bronx. In the words of Jay Z, who grew up at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, “Housing projects are … these huge islands built mostly in the middle of nowhere, designed to warehouse lives. People are still people, though, so we turned the projects into real communities, poor or not.” Meanwhile, he continued, “even when we could shake off the full weight of those buildings and just try to live, the truth of our lives and struggle was still invisible to the larger country.”
Affordable Housing in New York is a worthy step toward lifting this veil of invisibility.
Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies That Transformed a City Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner Princeton University Press, $39.95
The 1950 Mission complex is designed as a pair of apartment blocks connected by a central courtyard with a large, nine-story building fronting Mission Street and a smaller, five-story structure located along a mid-block alleyway.
The primary structure on Mission Street features a variously articulated facade arrangement that is segmented into three sections with a central stepped black-panel-clad portion flanked on either side by street-fronting apartment blocks. These facades, similarly clad in panelized finishes along the lower four floors with stucco walls above, feature storefront windows along the ground floor and punched openings denoting the apartment units above. The storefronts include smaller-than-average retail spaces designed to be occupied by local businesses, with plans to include an art gallery as well. The commercial areas along the ground floor will also feature varying ceiling heights, between 11 and 20 feet, in an arrangement that will help to boost the overall number of units developed through the project. The areas along the ground floor are set back from the building mass in certain areas, allowing the units above to create covered outdoor space underneath by acting as shade-casting overhangs.
The smaller apartment block will be accessed via a mid-block public approach that also connects to the central courtyard space and will feature an “artists’ paseo,” a walkway flanked with artists’ studios. With this arrangement, the designers hope to create a community gathering spot and arts-focused public space. The second apartment structure is set back from the alley with a 10-foot-wide planted area and features masonry-clad, undulating facades with specialized window hoods covering most of the building’s punched apertures. Those hoods are articulated to shield the openings from solar glare, and dot the stepped facade along various exposures. The building is topped by a rooftop garden and urban agriculture facility the architects have dubbed “Jardin de Las Familias,” and is connected to the larger structure via a series of stacked skywalks that traverse the courtyard area.
The project will provide on-site supportive services for future tenants via providers PODER, Mission Neighborhood Centers’ Head Start and Early-Head Start, Lutheran Social Services, and Mission Girls Services mentorship programs. Cervantes Design Associates will serve as associate architect on the project, which is currently moving through the entitlement process. A timeline for construction has not yet been released.
Zaha Hadid Architects and Patrik Schumacher openly feud over public housing and privatizing public space
Open letter from Zaha Hadid Architects November 29, 2016 Patrik Schumacher’s ‘urban policy manifesto’ does not reflect Zaha Hadid Architects’ past—and will not be our future. Zaha Hadid did not write manifestos. She built them. Zaha Hadid Architects has delivered 56 projects for all members of the community in 45 cities around the world. Refusing to be confined by limitations or boundaries, Zaha did not reserve her ideology for the lecture hall. She lived it. She deeply believed in the strongest international collaboration and we are very proud to have a hugely talented team of 50 different nationalities in our London office, including those from almost every EU country. 43% of architects at ZHA are of an ethnic minority and 40% of our architects are women. Zaha Hadid didn’t just break glass ceilings and pull down barriers; she shattered them—inviting everyone of any race, gender, creed or orientation to join her on the journey. Embedding a collective research culture into every aspect of our work, Zaha has built a team of many diverse talents and disciplines—and we will continue to innovate towards an architecture of inclusivity. Architects around the world are calling for the profession to become more inclusive. The national and international press have also done a very good job highlighting the critical issues of housing and the threats to vital public spaces. Through determination and sheer hard work, Zaha showed us all that architecture can be diverse and democratic. She inspired a whole new generation around the world to engage with their environment, to never stop questioning and never—ever—stop imagining. Collaborating with clients, communities and specialists around the world who share this vision, everyone at Zaha Hadid Architects is dedicated to honouring Zaha’s legacy, working with passion and commitment to design and deliver the most transformational projects for all. Zaha Hadid Architects (Copyright © Zaha Hadid Architects)It remains unclear exactly who authored the piece, or who among the firm's members, trustees, partners, etc. pushed for its publication. AN will continue to cover this story as it evolves. UPDATE: Oliver Wainwright of the The Guardian has tweeted this:
UPDATE: “Come out Patrik, come out from under that table!” cry protesters at Zaha Hadid Architects’ London office
Executors of Zaha Hadid's estate come out all guns blazing against Patrik Schumacher's comments. How much longer will he be in his job? pic.twitter.com/FVHA9yqOfr— Olly Wainwright (@ollywainwright) November 29, 2016