Archive for Gems from the Archives

Why Do Tenants Move?

Moving: not everyone's favorite activity.Moving: not everyone’s favorite activity.

Learning the reasons why households move is one of the holy grails of housing research. Along with how many housing units get built every year and how many New Yorkers live in informal apartments, this is one question without a satisfactory answer. In 1940, CHPC—or the Citizens’ Housing Council, as it was then known—tried to figure it out.

Much ado gets made these days about the displacement of tenants as rents rise in our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, a scarcity of data leads to unproductive conversations in which people speak either past each other or in circles.…

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Zoning in the City

The New York City Planning Commission in September, 2015. Image: Noticing New YorkThe New York City Planning Commission in September, 2015. Image: Noticing New York

The New York City government is campaigning to adopt two well-publicized amendments to the city’s Zoning Resolution. These amendments, which the NYC Department of City Planning refers to as Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), are considered keystones to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s broader plan to create affordable housing and stimulate diversity of incomes in neighborhoods.

The ZQA and MIH amendments have met with strong opposition at the community level. The vast majority of community boards who took an official stance …

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The Pedestrianization of Times Square

A drawing of the proposed Broadway Plaza, 1974.A drawing of the proposed Broadway Plaza, 1974.

This week has witnessed a kerfuffle around Times Square. From complaints about topless women in the pedestrian plaza, concerns have now become existential for the plaza itself as Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested it might be time to return the space to the use of cars. We dug into the CHPC archives to find out more about the “pedestrianization” of Times Square.

Of course, the removal of cars from Times Square is considered one of the more memorable urban planning achievements of de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. But it …

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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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