Gems from the Archives
CHPC would like to thank the Dickler Family Foundation for its leadership support of the preservation of our archive. We are also indebted to the Documentary Heritage Program at the New York State archives for its grant support in 2012. This has allowed us to re-arrange, re-house, and describe our entire collection and opened up these valuable records for the first time.
Over the last 70 years, CHPC has amassed a vast and unparalleled archive of primary source documents. Each month we profile a new discovery from our collection.
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A housing curriculum for public schools
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In the 1980’s housing in New York City was, in many ways, sick. Tens of thousands of units had been abandoned, New York City was still near the brink of bankruptcy and the federal government was backing away from its historical commitment to housing. HPD was a relatively new agency at the time and it had few tools in its toolbox to tackle the huge housing problems it faced. The agency, however, had a philosophical underpinning that healthy buildings made healthy neighborhoods and its staff had the creativity to experiment with new ideas. If tenants …Read more
Remembering the Koch Housing Plan
On May 3 Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his ten-year Housing New York plan. It follows in the tradition of the housing plans that preceded it: broad in scope, ambitious in goals. Indeed, in her keynote speech at CHPC’s annual luncheon the prior week, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen drew on the great housing reforms of New York City’s going back to the early 20th Century.
With that historical perspective in mind, we dive into our archives to find the 1985 State of the City speech in which Mayor Ed Koch announced his own housing initiatives. It was the first …Read more
The 1951 Slum Clearance Plan for Lenox Terrace
Our archives contain original copies of over one dozen slum clearance plans proposed in the 1950’s by the Committee on Slum Clearance Plans, whose Chairman was Robert Moses. These plans were proposed following the passage of the National Housing Act of 1949, which provided that areas with “slum conditions” could be seized, cleared and made available to private parties for redevelopment. Cleared land could be sold at a loss to induce developers to redevelop the sites, with the federal government taking two-thirds of the loss and local government one-third.
These plans contain detailed descriptions of slum conditions and photographs …Read more
CHPC Rent Control Reform Ideas From 1977
On the eve of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board’s first meeting of 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio filled some of its vacant seats by appointing public, owner, and tenant-advocate members. These appointments have caught much press attention lately on the heels of de Blasio’s rent-freeze campaign rhetoric. His appointments to the RGB offer a glimpse into whether a rent freeze will, in fact, happen.
As the public and private debates continue, CHPC has dug into its archives to find primary documents cataloging the development of rent regulation in New York City. The archives contain a great …Read more
Envisioning Community Boards in the 1963 Charter
On April 1 new Community Board members across the city will begin their new terms. As the five Borough Presidents get ready to make their appointments, we dug through our archives looking for clues on how this form of decentralized government came to be.
A pamphlet by the Citizens Union Research Foundation from 1962 titled Home Town in the Big City analyzed the shortcomings of Manhattan’s Community Planning Councils, the predecessors to the Community Boards that the 1963 City Charter envisioned. Although the pamphlet was supportive of the effort to decentralize local government, it warned that Community Planning Councils’ advisory …Read more
Waste Management Siting at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
As Mayor Bill de Blasio digs in on a proposed and much-disputed waste transfer station along the East River in Manhattan, we dig into our archives yet again to find a parallel example of NIMBY waste management politics in New York City’s not-so-distant past.
In the mid-1980s, city elected officials and municipal agencies were embroiled in a battle over the use of Brooklyn Navy Yard land. The Department of Sanitation wanted to use the northeast corner of the land for a “waste-to-steam” facility that would not only burn refuse but also turn it into energy for the surrounding area.
Testimony …Read more
Resistance to Washington Square Park Development in 1945
As New York University’s “Plan 2031” expansion continues and hits the news again this week, we delve into our archives to examine heated debates around Washington Square Park in years gone by. And as we see, the more things change the more they stay the same.
In 1945, the Washington Square Association, a group of neighborhood residents, organized a fiery campaign against the impending redevelopment of the area around the park. They feared that a “thirty-story apartment building planned for post-war erection on Washington Square North” would be just the beginning of a complete inundation of the park by tall …Read more
CHPC’s 1989 Survey of Mayoral Candidates
More than two decades after his tenure as mayor ended, housing policy looms large in the legacy of Edward I. Koch. Koch served three terms, from 1978 through 1989. His Ten Year Plan for Housing revitalized a decaying city and stands as one of his signature accomplishments. Yet Koch’s popularity could not carry him through a fourth election: in 1989, then-Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins won a four-way Democratic primary and defeated Rudolph Giuliani to become New York City’s first and only African-American mayor to date.
As the primary elections neared in 1989, CHPC asked the Republican and Democratic …Read more
LaGuardia to O’Dwyer: The Mayoral Transition of 1945
Another trip to the CHPC archives dusts off the policy paper that Citizens Housing Council (as CHPC was then known) released at the end of Fiorello H. LaGuardia’s tenure as mayor in December 1945. LaGuardia, one of New York’s most revered mayors, is one of four who served three consecutive terms—alongside Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (1954—1965), Edward I. Koch (1978—1989), and current mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (2002—2013). His successor was Tammany Hall Democrat William O’Dwyer, who served as the 100th mayor of New York City.
Titled “A Housing Program for New York City,” the document frames the urgent need for …Read more
A Look Back at Lindsay’s Mayoral Transition
As we expectantly follow the current transition in municipal government, we found these gems on the transition to John V. Lindsay’s first term in office in our archives. Lindsay (left), who was elected November 2, 1965, nominated the people who would implement his housing policy just days before taking office on January 1, 1966.
On December 17, 1965 a press release from The Office of Mayor-elect John V. Lyndsay announced the nomination of 31-year-old attorney Charles G. Moerdler as Commissioner of Buildings. According to the release Moerdler had been “the principal author of a white paper on housing code enforcement …Read more
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