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A bridge overlooking a city street with cars and pedestrians showcasing 'story 4' location

Looking Eastward along 26th Street

Between 8th Avenue and 10th Avenue from 23rd Street to 29th Street.

What

London Terrace was constructed in 1930 by developer Henry Mandel, who razed two entire lines of row houses along 23rd and 24th Streets. His vision was to create cooperative housing as an opportunity for white collar workers to live close to their work in Midtown offices.

A decade and a half later, in 1945, the New York City Housing Authority used federal slum clearance funding to demolish a four-block section of Chelsea for public housing.

Far from being a slum, this was a vibrant working-class community of housing, commercial retail, and even industrial activity, including the Flannagan Nay brewery.

In 1959, less than a block from the Chelsea-Elliott Houses, the Penn South Urban Renewal Plan brought middle-income families an opportunity to buy into a limited equity cooperative that was sponsored by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union.

Impact

London Terrace redefined urban living in Manhattan in the 30s and continues to be marketed as luxury apartments today. Penn South remains one of the best-run cooperatives in the city and continues to be an accessible housing opportunity in a city where housing costs have risen rapidly. The tenants of Chelsea-Elliott houses in recent years have faced declining housing conditions and have not had the opportunity to partake in Manhattan’s growing real estate values.

In these three examples, the way developers of real estate perceive the value and worthiness of the intended communities for each project led to starkly different outcomes. Ownership-based models like London Terrace or Penn South provide individual shareholders with secure long-term housing where they build equity and wealth, while the tenants of public housing have often been neglected and subject to declining housing conditions.

Provocations

Questions to Consider

Not all affordable housing is built equally – and some communities struggle far more than others in attaining the proper policies, repairs, or investments. In what ways does housing reveal the perceptions and mental models we have about who deserves what kind of housing? How does this strengthen or weaken our communities and democracy?

How do different modes of ownership impact the affordability of housing opportunities?

Are there legislative ways to address the problems tenants in public housing are facing today?

Is housing a human right? What role does secure, long-term housing play in a stable democracy?

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