Archive for Gems from the Archives

Contentious Redevelopment in Harlem

The Polo Grounds Houses in Harlem. Photo: NY Daily NewsThe Polo Grounds Houses in Harlem. Photo: NY Daily News

Discrimination and segregation in housing have been the subjects of national conversation in recent weeks. First, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in a fair housing case emanating from Texas. Following that, there was news of a lawsuit against New York City alleging that its practice of setting aside apartments in new subsidized buildings for local residents perpetuates discrimination.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, even a quick search of “discrimination” or “segregation” in the CHPC archives yields a trove of historical records, documents, and policy discussions.

One example from 1960s …

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The Urgency of State Legislation on Housing

1938 nyc street sceneThe East Side of Manhattan in 1938, just as housing was under the microscope of the state legislature. /Image: CHPC archives

As the current legislative session wraps up in Albany this week, the expiration of important housing laws looms large on the horizon. The laws governing both the 421-a tax exemption for housing development and the New York City’s rent stabilization will sunset. Public debate has simmered over and now seems to have quieted down, though Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will call the legislature back into session if nothing is done and Mayor Bill de Blasio has raised …

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Justifying tax exemptions for housing—in 1933

Lincoln Square undergoing slum clearanceLincoln Square undergoing slum clearance

As we edge closer to the expiration of New York State laws that create the 421-a tax incentive for housing, the debate about its reform—and indeed, its fundamental merit—has heated up. As always, contemporary debates are a wonderful chance for CHPC to dive back into its archives for relevant wisdom.

This week we’ve unearthed a pair of gems that explore the same debate: whether government should spend a valuable resource to build housing. But these documents—one an explainer, the other a fully impassioned argument—despite their close parallels with the 421-a debate, …

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Weighing The Merits Of Building Tall

FtGreene1950sFort Greene in the 1950s. Image: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Rezoning and density are words that kindle very different emotions and reactions—from excitement and curiosity to fear and anger. The current proposed changes to New York City’s zoning code have sparked all of those amidst growing debate.

In this edition of Gems from the Archives, we explore some interesting and prescient dialogue about the urban environment. We have touched on the issues of zoning and planning in other Gems posts—as in the creation of new neighborhoods like Battery Park City and anti-development organizing around Washington Square

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Building Housing Over the Tracks

Sunnyside YardsSunnyside Yards

The New York City planning and development world received a jolt of energy in Feburary, when Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his State of the City address. He announced his intention to redevelop the Sunnyside railyard in western Queens, a 200-acre site, with housing and neighborhood amenities. This announcement quickly met some doubt both from Albany and from various pundits around the city. A complicated mix of layout, soil composition, and land ownership issues will combine to make Sunnyside a difficult project.

But Sunnyside will not be the first place in the city where existing railroad infrastructure makes …

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Remembering Mario Cuomo and Forest Hills

Photo credit Richard Kalvar/MagnumPhoto credit Richard Kalvar/Magnum


CHPC remembers the late former Governor Mario Cuomo as a true servant of the public. To that end we delved into our archives to uncover the work that propelled him into public life.

In the late 1960s, Cuomo, a lawyer from Queens, became involved with a group of Corona residents who resisted a city proposal that would have displaced them in order to build a high school. From that experience, Cuomo was asked by Mayor John Lindsay to analyze the turmoil that resulted from a subsequent proposal to build low-income housing alongside the Long Island …

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