Screenshot 2019-07-29 at 12.56.34 PM.png
Posts in Housing & Realty
The Decorated Tenement: How Immigrant Builders and Architects Transformed the Slum in the Gilded Age

The Decorated Tenement: How Immigrant Builders and Architects Transformed the Slum in the Gilded Age

Reviewed by Paul Ranogajec

Violette’s important book opens a new chapter on urban housing in architectural history and helps the reader understand a whole set of buildings—indeed, whole swathes of the cityscapes of both New York and Boston—that are prominently visible but often overlooked. Amplifying elite architects’ and reformers’ disdain for so-called tenement “skin-builders,” architectural historians have studied in detail bourgeois design but have paid much less attention to buildings built by and for the working class. The Decorated Tenement helps to correct the historical record, treating the immigrant-built tenement commensurate with its prominence in the two cities. It is a timely book for that, even if the author does not explicitly make the connection to today’s immigration debates.

Read More
The Red Line Archive: An Interview with Walis Johnson

The Red Line Archive: An Interview with Walis Johnson

Interviewed by Prithi Kanakamedala

Today on the blog, editor Prithi Kanakamedala sits down with artist Walis Johnson to discuss her current work, The Red Line Archive Project, which activates conversations about the personal and political effects of redlining using her own family’s story growing up in Brooklyn.

Read More
"All the Single Ladies": Women-Only Buildings in Early 20th c. NYC

"All the Single Ladies": Women-Only Buildings in Early 20th c. NYC​

By Nina E. Harkrader

The growth of manufacturing and industry in Northeastern cities during the early to mid-nineteenth century increased demand for female labor in the United States. As a result, the number of single working women living in urban areas grew significantly. These newly arrived women workers were expected to find their own lodging, but there were no precedents for housing single women in cities. On top of that, the much lower wages paid to female workers greatly limited their housing choices, and many ended up living in squalid situations: shared bedrooms in tenement buildings or hired rooms in boarding houses with male lodgers. For women workers in cities, two problems emerged: a literal housing crisis, but a figurative one as well, as this was a period when female chastity, innocence, and domesticity were celebrated and expected of women, who would perform the role of “the angel in the house” and rarely, if ever, appear unaccompanied in public.

Read More
The Picture the Homeless Oral History Project: Don’t Talk About Us, Talk With Us

The Picture the Homeless Oral History Project: Don’t Talk About Us, Talk With Us

Today on the blog, former Executive Director of Picture the Homeless Lynn Lewis speaks with Molly Rosner about her experience conducting oral history interviews as both an organizer and an oral historian. Quotes from interviewees in the project have been interspersed throughout the text.

Read More
History Museums and Capitalism: The Need for Critical Conversations

History Museums and Capitalism: The Need for Critical Conversations

By Andrew Urban

In November, 2018, the Public Historian published a review that I wrote of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s newest tour: Under One Roof. The tour interprets the lives of three families who lived in the tenement at 103 Orchard Street — which was acquired by the museum in 2007 — from the 1940s up until the recent past. Addressing post-World War II immigration and migration to the Lower East Side, the educators leading the tours that I took did an excellent job highlighting how Americans have frequently been reluctant to welcome the world’s “huddled masses,” national myths notwithstanding.

Read More
Carol Lamberg's Neighborhood Success Stories: Creating and Sustaining Affordable Housing in New York

Carol Lamberg's Neighborhood Success Stories: Creating and Sustaining Affordable Housing in New York

Reviewed by Nicholas Dagen Bloom

Building and operating subsidized housing in New York City is a tough business. Carol Lamberg, a master at the trade, offers us a candid and nuanced account of the perils and promise of this enterprise in her readable autobiographical account, Neighborhood Success Stories. Lamberg, who served for decades as the Executive Director of the Settlement Housing Fund, helped build the organization into one of the most respected affordable developers and managers in the city, with outstanding multi-family properties in the Bronx and Lower East Side.


Read More
Contested City: An Interview with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

Contested City: An Interview with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

Today on Gotham, Prithi Kanakamedala interviews Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani about the process of community-engaged pedagogy, collaborative public history, and advocacy around the Lower East Side's SPURA.

Read More
Brooklyn Is Expanding: Introductory Notes on a Global Borough

Brooklyn Is Expanding: Introductory Notes on a Global Borough

By Benjamin H. Shepard and Mark J. Noonan, with notes from Greg Smithsimon

This book concerns tides: tides of people, tides of development, tides of industry, tides of power, and tides of resistance. Brooklyn, once a city, then a borough, and now a brand, illustrates the tensions that arise between the local and the global in a given place. The ebb and flow of these dynamics can be witnessed on the street as well as in the many seminal books and films set in Brooklyn and concerned with its unique status as both a distinctive place and an ever-evolving imaginative space evoking a wide range of associations and emotions.

This post is an excerpt from the authors' new Brooklyn Tides: The Fall and Rise of a Global Borough, courtesy of Transcript-Verlag.

Read More
After the Rent Strike: Neoliberalism and Co-op City

After the Rent Strike: Neoliberalism and Co-op City

By Annemarie Sammartino

In mid-1976, a provisional settlement awarded control of Co-op City to its residents. Co-op City was, and is, a 15,382 apartment middle-income development located in the Northeast Bronx. The achievement of resident control represented the culmination of negotiations following a thirteen-month rent strike that destroyed the non-profit United Housing Foundation (UHF) that had built Co-op City and nearly bankrupted the New York State Housing Finance Agency. As the terms of the provisional settlement began to come out, the Wall Street Journal was apoplectic about what awarding resident control might mean:

If the state wants to regain its financial credibility, it will have, to put it brutally, to make an example of the Co-op City rent strikers… The state may find… that the rent strike will collapse after the first tenants lose their apartments. But in any case, it will be more humane to throw people out into the June sunshine than into the December snow.

Read More
Enter Donald: The Trump Empire Goes to Manhattan

Enter Donald: The Trump Empire Goes to Manhattan

By Gwenda Blair

At the age of twenty-six Donald Trump had sealed his first multi-million-dollar deal. It was a sweet thing for a young man who had been his father’s full-time student ever since graduation from Wharton. Every morning he and his father drove from Jamaica Estates to Fred Trump’s modest office in Beach Haven, one of the large housing developments the older man had built near Coney Island in the early 1950s. Inside a nondescript, three-story brick building on Avenue Z, the headquarters of the Trump family empire still looked like the dentist’s office it had once been, with a linoleum floor, shag carpet, and chest-high partitions between cubicles.

This is the last of three profiles of the Trump patriarchs, adapted from the author's bestseller, The Trumps: Three Builders and a President, courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Read More