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Learning From New York


  • Nicholas Dagen Bloom


Problem, research strategy, and findings: High-rise public housing has been entirely discredited in the United States as a legitimate affordable housing planning strategy because of notorious failures in large cities such as St. Louis and Chicago. Missing from the planning literature is the long-term achievement record of America's largest operator of high-rise public housing, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which still operates 2,600 buildings primarily in modernist tower-in-the-park superblocks for 403,995 authorized tenants. This article assembles and analyzes historical and contemporary materials to create a portrait of functioning American tower-block public housing. The article discusses both contextual factors (New York's transit network, density, and diversity) and successful long-term management in three areas (daily operations, tenant selection, and lobbying) as key to the NYCHA's preservation of public housing. Takeaway for practice: In operations, NYCHA has maintained large front-line staffing on project grounds that play a critical role both in maintenance and social order. In tenant selection, administrators for decades have maintained greater social mixture and better finances by recruiting and retaining working families and, at the same time, enforcing social control through heavy policing. In politics, NYCHA has successfully lobbied for additional federal and city support. Long-term challenges to project preservation and current challenges in New York are also discussed. The findings raise the possibility of high-density urban towers for low-income residents in strong market cities, provided that sufficient attention is paid to design, tenancy, financing, and social control. Research support: None.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicholas Dagen Bloom, 2012. "Learning From New York," Journal of the American Planning Association, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 78(4), pages 418-431, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rjpaxx:v:78:y:2012:i:4:p:418-431
    DOI: 10.1080/01944363.2012.737981

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    1. The Birth and Growth of Modern Zoning (Part II): The FARsighted Great Depression
      by Jason Barr in Skynomics Blog on 2021-08-09 12:12:48


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    Cited by:

    1. Shomon Shamsuddin & Lawrence J Vale, 2017. "Lease it or lose it? The implications of New York’s Land Lease Initiative for public housing preservation," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 54(1), pages 137-157, January.
    2. Ravit Hananel, 2017. "From central to marginal: The trajectory of Israel’s public-housing policy," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 54(11), pages 2432-2447, August.
    3. Dan Luo & Harry van der Heijden & Peter J. Boelhouwer, 2020. "Policy Design and Implementation of a New Public Rental Housing Management Scheme in China: A Step Forward or an Uncertain Fate?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(15), pages 1-25, July.

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