Richard Price at Guernica:
In 1935, the first public housing complex in New York, prosaically christened First Houses, (landmarked since 1974) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, offered 122 apartments featuring oak wood floors and brass fixtures. The rent, adjusted to each family’s monthly income, ranged from five to seven dollars. The recently formed New York City Housing Authority—the agency charged with the design, construction, and administration of this and future housing developments across the city—stopped accepting applications when their number went north of three thousand.
As of 2012, according to figures compiled by Mark Jacobson for New York Magazine, the NYCHA oversaw 334 projects, 2602 buildings, nearly 180 thousand apartments, and 400,000 to 600,000 tenants (the wide range a result of the impossibility of tallying the number of off-lease tenants). In Jacobsen’s words, “If Nychaland was a city unto itself, it would be the 21st most populous in the U.S., bigger than Boston or Seattle, twice the size of Cincinnati.”
And in defiance of their current hell-hole reputation, the waiting list for apartments stood, in that year, at 160,000 families.
In the beginning it seemed like a good idea.