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CHPC New York

Gems from the Archives

CHPC would like to thank the Dickler Family Foundation for its leadership support of the preservation of our archive. We are also indebted to the Documentary Heritage Program at the New York State archives for its grant support in 2012. This has allowed us to re-arrange, re-house, and describe our entire collection and opened up these valuable records for the first time.

Over the last 70 years, CHPC has amassed a vast and unparalleled archive of primary source documents. Each month we profile a new discovery from our collection.

The 1951 Slum Clearance Plan for Lenox Terrace

Our archives contain original copies of over one dozen slum clearance plans proposed in the 1950’s by the Committee on Slum Clearance Plans, whose Chairman was Robert Moses. These plans were proposed following the passage of the National Housing Act of 1949, which provided that areas with “slum conditions” could be seized, cleared and made available to private parties for redevelopment. Cleared land could be sold at a loss to induce developers to redevelop the sites, with the federal government taking two-thirds of the loss and local government one-third.

These plans contain detailed descriptions of slum conditions and photographs of Read more…

CHPC Rent Control Reform Ideas From 1977

 

On the eve of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board’s first meeting of 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio filled some of its vacant seats by appointing public, owner, and tenant-advocate members. These appointments have caught much press attention lately on the heels of de Blasio’s rent-freeze campaign rhetoric. His appointments to the RGB offer a glimpse into whether a rent freeze will, in fact, happen.

As the public and private debates continue, CHPC has dug into its archives to find primary documents cataloging the development of rent regulation in New York City. The archives contain a great … Read more…

Envisioning Community Boards in the 1963 Charter

On April 1 new Community Board members across the city will begin their new terms. As the five Borough Presidents get ready to make their appointments, we dug through our archives looking for clues on how this form of decentralized government came to be.

A pamphlet by the Citizens Union Research Foundation from 1962 titled Home Town in the Big City analyzed the shortcomings of Manhattan’s Community Planning Councils, the predecessors to the Community Boards that the 1963 City Charter envisioned. Although the pamphlet was supportive of the effort to decentralize local government, it warned that Community Planning Councils’ advisory Read more…

Waste Management Siting at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

The proposed marine transfer station under construction adjacent to the FDR Drive. Photo credit: Michael Appleton for the New York Times

As Mayor Bill de Blasio digs in on a proposed and much-disputed waste transfer station along the East River in Manhattan, we dig into our archives yet again to find a parallel example of NIMBY waste management politics in New York City’s not-so-distant past.

In the mid-1980s, city elected officials and municipal agencies were embroiled in a battle over the use of Brooklyn Navy Yard land. The Department of Sanitation wanted to use the northeast corner of the land for a “waste-to-steam” facility that would not only burn refuse but also turn it into energy for the surrounding area.

Testimony … Read more…

Resistance to Washington Square Park Development in 1945

Wash Sq Villagers rezoning poster

As New York University’s “Plan 2031” expansion continues and hits the news again this week, we delve into our archives to examine heated debates around Washington Square Park in years gone by. And as we see, the more things change the more they stay the same.

In 1945, the Washington Square Association, a group of neighborhood residents, organized a fiery campaign against the impending redevelopment of the area around the park. They feared that a “thirty-story apartment building planned for post-war erection on Washington Square North” would be just the beginning of a complete inundation of the park by tall … Read more…

CHPC’s 1989 Survey of Mayoral Candidates

David Dinkins

More than two decades after his tenure as mayor ended, housing policy looms large in the legacy of Edward I. Koch. Koch served three terms, from 1978 through 1989. His Ten Year Plan for Housing revitalized a decaying city and stands as one of his signature accomplishments. Yet Koch’s popularity could not carry him through a fourth election: in 1989, then-Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins won a four-way Democratic primary and defeated Rudolph Giuliani to become New York City’s first and only African-American mayor to date.

 

As the primary elections neared in 1989, CHPC asked the Republican and Democratic … Read more…

LaGuardia to O’Dwyer: The Mayoral Transition of 1945

William O'Dwyer

Another trip to the CHPC archives dusts off the policy paper that Citizens Housing Council (as CHPC was then known) released at the end of Fiorello H. LaGuardia’s tenure as mayor in December 1945. LaGuardia, one of New York’s most revered mayors, is one of four who served three consecutive terms—alongside Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (1954—1965), Edward I. Koch (1978—1989), and current mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (2002—2013). His successor was Tammany Hall Democrat William O’Dwyer, who served as the 100th mayor of New York City.

Titled “A Housing Program for New York City,” the document frames the urgent need for … Read more…

A Look Back at Lindsay’s Mayoral Transition

John V. Lyndsay

As we expectantly follow the current transition in municipal government, we found these gems on the transition to John V. Lindsay’s first term in office in our archives. Lindsay (left), who was elected November 2, 1965, nominated the people who would implement his housing policy just days before taking office on January 1, 1966.

On December 17, 1965 a press release from The Office of Mayor-elect John V. Lyndsay announced the nomination of 31-year-old attorney Charles G. Moerdler as Commissioner of Buildings. According to the release Moerdler had been “the principal author of a white paper on housing code enforcement … Read more…

Why Do Tenants Move? CHPC 1940

Network Scan Data

In 1940, CHPC conducted a study of the moving habits and attitudes of 1219 New York families. The ‘sub-committee on Tenant-Landlord Relations’, part of CHPC’s Housing Management Committee, scrutinized the factors that compelled tenants to move homes; a process that causes “a drain on family resources no matter how happy the outcome”.

The study’s major findings were:

1. Lower rent was the chief reason for moving given by Manhattan tenants;

2. More than 1/4 of Manhattan tenants wanted more value for money;

3. 1/4 might have been induced by their former landlord to remain;

4. Tenants claim they are … Read more…

CHPC is putting on a show!

Stuytown

Last year CHPC commissioned playwright Adam Thorburn to use the primary source documents in our Ruth Dickler – Marian Sameth Archival Library to craft an original play about the struggle to integrate Stuyvesant Town in the 1940s and 50s.

The evening of Monday, December 10 Stuyvesant Town: This Is Your Home will premiere at the Frank Gehry-designed Pershing Square Signature Center on West 42nd Street.

A wine and cheese reception beginning at 6:30pm will lead into the performance. Afterwards, a panel discussion will pull the story into the present, examining issues of discrimination and segregation in housing today. Tickets are … Read more…